A state appeals court panel Tuesday upheld a former Burbank resident's conviction for the killing of a former roommate whose remains were buried in the Angeles National Forest.
The three-justice panel from California's 2nd District Court of Appeal noted in its ruling that Donald Thurman is a "self-admitted con-man" who denied any involvement in the January 2013 beating death of Glendale resident Nicholas Carter.
Thurman was convicted in June 2017 of first-degree murder, with jurors finding true the special circumstance allegations of murder for financial gain, killing a witness, murder while lying in wait and murder during a robbery. He was sentenced the following month to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
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Co-defendant Erik Thomas Pearson pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to 25 years to life in state prison.
Pearson admitted that he killed the 25-year-old victim by clubbing him over the head because Thurman -- who claimed to be an undercover police officer -- threatened to harm him or his family if he didn't, according to the appellate court panel's ruling.
Carter's body was found on Jan. 19, 2013, in a shallow grave off of Big Tujunga Canyon Road, after a search by cadaver dogs.
A hiker had discovered pools of blood in the area the morning after the killing, but an immediate search of the area came up empty. The grave site was several hundred yards away from the first signs of foul play.
The day after the killing, Thurman began withdrawing money from Carter's bank accounts -- eventually draining them of thousands of dollars -- and using his credit cards, according to Deputy District Attorney Marc Debbaudt.
He said Thurman used Carter's personal data to guarantee a lease for someone else and, posing as Carter, reported the identity theft to police.
The victim had met Thurman through an Internet website while looking for a place to stay. They lived together for a few months at a residence not far from the crime scene.
A friend of Carter's and his current roommate both knew he had gone to meet Thurman on Jan. 7, 2013. They didn't believe text messages sent later from his phone, including one telling them that Carter's grandmother had died, and his father subsequently filed a missing persons report.