Two Santee brothers were described as "fighters" and "killers" Friday by the judge who sentenced them to prison for the brutal beating death of a homeless man.
The teenage girlfriend of one of the killers, who lied in an attempt to help the brothers avoid prison time, was convicted of a misdemeanor and sentenced to one day behind bars with credit for time served. She was crying when she walked out of court Friday with a group of friends and family members.
Austin Mostrong, 22, and Preston Mostrong, 21, beat an elderly man so severely in April 2016 that the victim's brain expanded inside his skull and killed him.
The victim was targeted because he had confiscated one of the defendants' paintball gun, prosecutors said.
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"You were just completely out of control - not acknowledging or feeling any consequences for your actions," Judge Daniel B. Goldstein told the Mostrongs.
"You just thought you were the masters of your universe and you were going to beat down people," he said.
George Lowery, 50, was beaten with "fists and feet" in an assault that homicide investigators described as "a very horrific event."
Preston Mostrong pleaded guilty to manslaughter and mayhem in October. Austin Mostrong pleaded guilty at the same hearing to second-degree murder and assault with a deadly weapon.
Austin was sentenced to 20 years to life Friday. Preston received a sentence of 24 years behind bars.
Before the defendants were dismissed, Preston Mostrong requested a chance to hug his mother. The judge denied the request based on security reasons.
Judge Goldstein referred to the brothers as "awful human beings."
"They're fighters," he said. "They're killers."
Also sentenced Friday was Hailey Suder, 19, of Santee.
Suder was dating Austin at the time of the crime. She was there when the beating occurred and, when interviewed by investigators, lied to them three or four times, Deputy District Attorney George Modlin said.
Suder pleaded guilty to aiding the Mostrong brothers in their attempt to avoid capture.
Her defense attorney argued that Suder was still in high school at the time of the killing. Since then, she has held several jobs including working for a party planning company that provides entertainment for children's parties.
Suder was planning on attending Grossmont College to pursue a career in dental hygiene.
The judge ruled her charge would be a misdemeanor and sentenced her to one day in custody with credit for time served.
"The idea that she would be a match for the Mostrong brothers is ridiculous,” said Goldstein.
Lowery was found unconscious on April 24, 2016 in a riverbed where homeless people are known to camp. He was face down under a piece of plywood near Chubb Lane and N. Magnolia Avenue in Santee. He died five days later.
Penny Lowery, who found her husband after the beating, said he was killed because he tried to protect another homeless man a week before his death.
"They were shooting him with a paintball gun. My husband took the paintball gun from him,” Penny Lowery said in an interview with NBC 7 the day her husband was taken off life support.
Modlin said Austin was also sentenced for an assault on another victim, stemming from a prior incident in front of a Jack-in-the-Box caught on cell phone video by witnesses.
Modlin added a week before the beating death of Lowery, Austin was shooting at homeless people with a paintball gun. This led to a fist fight with one of the victims, during which Lowery took Austin's paintball guns from his truck.
Modlin said Austin knowingly went to Lowery's encampment a week later to get his paintball guns back.
Lowery was also hogtied, covered with rubbing alcohol and pushed face-down into "muck."