PHOENIX — A man convicted of killing nine people, including six monks, during a robbery at a Buddhist temple in metro Phoenix was sentenced Friday to 249 years in prison, marking the end of one of the most notorious crimes committed in Arizona over the last 25 years.
Johnathan A. Doody was found guilty in January of first-degree murder in the deaths of six monks, one nun and two helpers who were shot in the back of the head and were placed face-down in a circle in August 1991 at the Wat Promkunaram temple west of Phoenix.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Joseph Kreamer said it’s difficult to fathom the murders. “These people were peace-loving,” Kreamer said. “These people didn’t seek violence.”
Doody, who was 17 at the time of the crimes, was one of two men convicted in the killings.
Allesandro “Alex” Garcia, a high school friend of Doody’s, pleaded guilty and was previously sentenced to life in prison in exchange for his testimony and a promise that prosecutors wouldn’t seek the death penalty.
During the retrials, Garcia described for jurors how the crime was Doody’s idea, aimed at stealing about $2,600 cash and valuables from the monks. Garcia said he tried to persuade Doody not to kill the victims after the robbery, but Doody was determined to leave behind no witnesses.
Police found the stolen items at Garcia’s house, where Doody was staying at the time.
Doody’s brother and mother were members of the temple, but neither were there the night of the shootings.
Doody, who maintains he is innocent of the crimes, declined to make comments to the judge before the sentence was handed down.
“We hope this sentence makes him suffer for the rest of his life,” Barb Heller, who spoke on behalf of the temple, told the jury before the sentence was given.
Defense attorneys argued Garcia was lying and only implicated Doody to avoid a death sentence. Prosecutors said both men were equally culpable and that Garcia had no reason to fabricate his story.
Doody’s attorneys plan to appeal their client’s convictions.
Defense attorney Maria Schaffer told the judge that Doody has expressed remorse for what happened to the victims. “But he wants everybody to know that he did not do these crimes,” Schaffer said.
Doody was spared the death penalty in his first trial.
Prosecutors couldn’t seek the death penalty in his retrials because of a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision that prohibits authorities from pursuing that punishment against defendants who were younger than 18 years old when the crime occurred.
Associated Press writer Brian Skoloff contributed to this report.