PHOENIX — A man convicted of murder in the deaths of a cigar salesman in Phoenix and a couple from the upscale Paradise Valley suburb was given three life sentences Friday, putting an end to seven years of court proceedings that focused more on his mental state.
The sentencing was the result of a plea deal that Michael Lee Crane made nearly two months ago, calling for him to serve the consecutive prison terms in the January 2012 killings of Bruce Gaudet and Lawrence and Glenna Shapiro.
Prosecutors had agreed to drop plans to seek the death penalty against Crane, who had pleaded guilty to murder, kidnapping, arson and other charges.
Several family members of the victims who attended the hearing in Maricopa County Superior Court expressed disappointment and outrage that Crane would not be on death row.
"I very much wanted to physically watch the defendant die and truly pay for his crimes and murderous ways," said Dirk Gaudet, Bruce Gaudet's brother. "He has never truly shown remorse. For that reason, I can never forgive this individual."
Other relatives railed against Crane and the court for dragging out the case for seven years with unnecessary delays and continuances. Jessica Gaudet, one of Bruce Gaudet's three adult daughters, said the family ultimately isn't getting true justice or closure.
"You let this man, Michael Crane, run the ropes of our justice system," she said through tears.
"Today, we have accepted what has to be done in order to gain a sense of sanity and let my Dad rest in peace."
Crane, who had to be admonished once by the judge for chuckling, mostly remained quiet during the victim impact statements.
His defense attorney, Jamie Sparks, kept her remarks brief. While displaying a picture of a 5-year-old Crane, Sparks spoke of how he had grown up in an abusive home with a mentally ill mother. All the adults in his life had failed to recognize signs that he was having his own mental health problems, she said.
"I do believe there's redemption for that little boy who needed everybody's help," Sparks said. "This life (sentence) plea has saved this little boy's life. He deserves that, and we're very thankful."
Judge Warren Granville also imposed prison terms for multiple convictions of armed burglary, arson and other crimes related to the killings and separate incidents in 2009, 2011 and 2012. In total, those sentences amounted to more than 300 years.
Authorities say Crane bound and fatally shot the victims at their homes, stole their jewelry and other valuables and set their houses on fire. The Shapiros were killed four days after Gaudet.
Prosecutors say a gun used in the killings was found in Crane's possession when he was arrested in separate crimes that occurred days after the shooting deaths. Crane pleaded guilty to burglary and other charges in those crimes.
Authorities said shoes recovered at an attempted burglary had been stolen days earlier from Gaudet's home, and that Crane's DNA was found on the shoes.
A woman connected to Crane was found driving Gaudet's SUV near Yuma on the same day he was killed. Maricela Otilia Sanchez, 34, of Phoenix pleaded guilty to kidnapping, second-degree murder and car theft charges. She is scheduled to be sentenced April 23.
Barry Hassell, who was an accomplice in the killings of the Shapiros, was sentenced in 2016 to two concurrent life sentences with the possibility of parole.
Over the course of his murder case, Crane was removed from the courtroom at several hearings for being disruptive and making obscene statements to the judge. He showed hostility toward his attorneys on several occasions.
Much of the proceedings have centered on the psychological fitness of Crane, who claimed at a 2015 mental competency hearing that he was Lucifer. Two months ago, a judge deemed Crane to be mentally fit to move forward with the case.
Three other people accused of possessing items stolen in both fatal burglaries have since pleaded guilty to charges. Two additional people have pleaded guilty to hindering the prosecution by suppressing evidence that authorities believed would have led to Crane.