Breaking News
More () »

Poway synagogue shooter receives life in prison without parole

Under the terms of his plea deal, he was sentenced to life without parole, plus an additional 137 years to life.

POWAY, Calif. — A young man who carried out a hate-motivated shooting at the Chabad of Poway that killed one woman and injured three other people was sentenced Thursday to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

John Timothy Earnest, 22, pleaded guilty July 20 in San Diego Superior Court to murder and attempted murder charges for the April 27, 2019, shooting. He also pleaded guilty to an arson charge for setting fire to the Dar-ul-Arqam Mosque in Escondido on March 24, 2019.

He killed 60-year-old Lori Kaye and wounded three others.

As part of the plea deal, Earnest avoided the death penalty.

Several victims testified during the sentencing hearing Thursday. Kaye's daughter, Hannah, took the podium and broke down crying. 

She described the last moments she had with her mother the day she was killed, which included the last time they hugged, the last time they said 'I love you.' It all took place just hours before the shooting.

Hannah Kaye described her mom as her soulmate and her best friend.. 

"I felt my mother die without knowing it on a literal level in those eternal never ending suspended in time moments which lasted forever in seconds," she said tearfully. "When the shots ceased to be and I soon entered the hallway and witnessed the scene of utter unfathomable shock and chaos, I died with my mother in spirit. Witnessing my father trying to revive my mother and fail, not only as her husband but as a doctor of 40 plus years, it was a colossal tragedy in itself. For she died instantly."

"I sat next to my mother on the ground in the hallway and I held her hand and I told her I loved her," said Kaye. "This would be the last time I would be able to touch my mother hold her hand."

In an online open letter discovered shortly before the shooting, Earnest espoused flagrant anti-Semitic sentiments, a need to protect the "European race," and wrote, "I can only kill so many Jews" and "I only wish I killed more."

Under the terms of his plea deal, he was sentenced to life without parole, plus an additional 137 years to life.

State prosecutors announced last year that they would seek the death penalty against Earnest, but that effort was dropped in light of the plea deal, in which Earnest also admitted hate crime allegations specifying that the crimes were carried out because of the victims' race.

WATCH: Judge reads sentence for Poway synagogue shooter

On Sept. 17, Earnest pleaded guilty to 113 federal charges stemming from the shooting. He will be sentenced in that case Dec. 28, in which federal prosecutors and Earnest are jointly seeking a prison term of life in prison, plus 30 years.

The former Rancho Penasquitos resident and Cal State San Marcos nursing student carried out the shooting on the last day of Passover. Kaye was shot twice in the synagogue's foyer. She was a longtime member of Chabad of Poway. She was at the temple with her husband and daughter to honor her mother, who had recently died.

The congregation's rabbi, Yisroel Goldstein, lost a finger in the shooting. Two other people -- Almog Peretz and his then-8-year-old niece, Noya Dahan -- were also injured.

Prosecutors said 54 people were inside the synagogue when Earnest opened fire.

Surveillance footage from the date of the crime appears to show the shooter's rifle jam or malfunction after he entered the synagogue and began firing. He was then chased out by congregants, drove a short distance away, called police and directed them to his location, where he was arrested.

Earnest pleaded guilty in both the state and federal cases to setting fire to the Dar-ul-Arqam Mosque. According to the federal plea agreement, seven missionaries were asleep inside the mosque at the time but were able to extinguish the flames and escape injury.

In addition to state and federal prosecutions, the shooting triggered a series of lawsuits from the victims of the shooting against Earnest, the Chabad itself, the gun store that sold Earnest the weapon and gun manufacturers.

WATCH RELATED: Victims of the Poway synagogue shooting (April 2019)

Before You Leave, Check This Out