(CNS) - A man who beat his girlfriend with a hammer and sexually assaulted her for hours after they decided he would move out of her Pacific Beach home was sentenced today to life in prison.
Walter Cordell, 53, was convicted Sept. 15 of premeditated attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, making a criminal threat, forcible rape, rape by a foreign object, and unauthorized use of an ATM card.
Superior Court Judge John Einhorn ordered Cordell imprisoned for 32 years and four months, followed by a consecutive sentence of life in prison, followed by another term of 60 years to life.
"The crimes displayed a high degree of cruelty and viciousness," the judge said.
Prosecutor Lindsey Krause said Cordell told his girlfriend -- a woman in her mid-40s -- that he was dying of pancreatic cancer and had three months to live. The couple decided to split up after six weeks of living together and Cordell was going to move out, the prosecutor told the jury.
The day of the attack, May 30, 2008, Cordell asked the victim if they could have sex one more time and she agreed, Krause said.
After that, Cordell said he had a surprise for the victim and when she turned around, he hit her with a 2-pound hammer three-to-four times in the arm, head and neck, sending her to the floor, the prosecutor said.
Cordell told the victim, "You better not move, you better not leave or I'm gonna kill you," according to the prosecutor.
The victim was then sexually assaulted and tortured for hours, with the defendant telling her to moan like she enjoyed it, Krause said.
The prosecutor said the victim suffered a broken arm, broken neck and had 50 stitches to close a laceration on the back of her head.
Krause said Cordell used a cell phone to take a picture of the victim face down on the floor, took her ATM card and left. The victim got up and went across a parking lot to her family's Italian restaurant, where family members called 911.
The judge said the acts committed by the defendant were separate, with "plenty of time to think" between them, warranting the consecutive sentences.
The next day, a neighbor spotted Cordell going into the victim's home with bolt cutters and called 911, Krause said.
When the defendant wouldn't come out, a police SWAT team was called and Cordell holed up for 12 hours before being arrested, the prosecutor said.
Krause said Cordell beat another girlfriend eight years earlier in a similar attack.
Defense attorney Megan Marcotte told the jury in her opening statement that Cordell admitted hitting the victim on May 30, 2008, and that the couple enjoyed a healthy sex life.
"Walter Cordell is not a rapist. He is not a murderer," Marcotte told the jury.
The victim never had sex with Cordell when she didn't want to, his attorney said.
Cordell had been married for more than 20 years and started drinking when he lost his job and got divorced, his attorney said.
In the incident with another former girlfriend eight years ago, she came at him with a knife and he responded by hitting her with a stick in self-defense, Marcotte said. Cordell ended up pleading guilty, went to prison and moved to San Diego when he got out, the attorney said.
The defendant met his current girlfriend in Pacific Beach, moved into her home, and the two would go out drinking, Marcotte said.
On the day in question, the couple started talking about their relationship after they had sex and Cordell got angry and hit the victim with the first thing he found, a hammer, Marcotte told the jury.
"But he never intended to kill her," the attorney said. "If he wanted to kill her, he certainly would have."
After the attack, Cordell was ashamed and went only a couple blocks, knowing he would have to pay for what he had done, Marcotte told the jury.
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