POWAY (CBSLA) — John T. Earnest pleaded guilty Tuesday to murder in the 2019 shooting at Chabad of Poway synagogue, the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office announced.
The 22-year-old pleaded guilty to the murder of 60-year-old Lori Gilbert-Kaye and the attempted murder of Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, who had been shot in both hands and ultimately lost an index finger. An 8-year-old girl, identified as Noya D., and her uncle, Almog Peretz, were also wounded in the attack on April 27, 2019.
Earnest admitted his bias and hatred of Jews prompted his attack on the synagogue, where 54 people were worshiping that day, according to prosecutors. He also pleaded guilty to the arson of the Dar-ul-Arqam mosque for the purpose of terrorizing Muslim worshipers.
As part of his plea agreement, Earnest has agreed to serve the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole, plus 121 years-to-life and 16 years in state prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 30, but federal prosecutors have until Aug. 30 to decide if Earnest will also face federal hate crime charges in the shooting.
“While we reserved the option of trying this as a death penalty case, life in prison without the possibility of parole for the defendant is an appropriate resolution to this violent hate crime and we hope it brings a measure of justice and closure to the victims, their families, friends, and the wider community,” the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office said in a statement.