A Virginia man was sentenced Friday to life in prison without parole for stealing $1.2 million from a retiree and then killing the man on a sailboat out of Dana Point Harbor, according to the Orange County District Attorney's office.
Gary A. Shawkey, 47, was found guilty June 21 of murder for financial gain, grand theft and a sentencing enhancement for stealing more than $200,000, according to the OCDA.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Richard Toohey handed down the life term.
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The judge ordered the defendant to pay $200,000 to the Vendrick family, and signed an order seizing $79,000 from Shawkey and turned it over to the victim's survivors. However, it's unlikely Shawkey will have the ability to pay the $200,000 the judge ordered, Deputy District Attorney Ebrahim Baytieh told City News Service outside the courtroom.
Between 2004 and 2008, Shawkey convinced Robert Vendrick, a 71-year-old retiree from Phoenix, to give him about $1.2 million for fake investments that promised high returns.
In February 2008, Vendrick arrived in Orange County to close what he thought was a top-secret deal with federal agents on San Clemente Island.
"Shawkey and Vendrick got on the boat and sailed out of Dana Point Harbor. The victim was never seen again," according to the OCDA.
Although the body was never found, prosecutors believe Shawkey murdered Vendrick and disposed of the body in the ocean sometime between Feb. 14, 2008, and Feb. 24, 2008.
Fred Vendrick, the victim's brother, told reporters after the hearing that he had found some degree of closure following Shawkey's conviction.
"I'm happy that it's finally all over," said the Hermosa Beach resident, who went on to praise Orange County sheriff's investigators and prosecutors.
"It doesn't bring my brother back, but it brings some measure of closure," he said.
Fred Vendrick said he doesn't consider his brother's killer evil, and doesn't harbor any strong feelings of anger toward him.
"My feelings are not of animosity, but deep sadness," he said. "To me, he seems like a forlorn soul. Why did he have to do what he did?"
He said he doesn't believe Shawkey's claims over the years that the victim is still alive.
"That's just a ruse. He knows he killed him," Fred Vendrick said.