SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A former California fire battalion chief was sentenced Friday to 16 years to life in prison after he was convicted of the second-degree murder of his girlfriend.
Orville Fleming, 57, was given the mandatory 15 years to life and one more year for aggravated use of a knife in the death of 26-year-old Sarah June Douglas.
Fleming was charged with murder in 2014 after Douglas was found dead in their south Sacramento home.
"What kind of terror, panic and unspeakable hell did she go through when, at some point, Sarah knew she was going to die?" Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Sharon A. Lueras said. "This was the circumstance of her last breath on earth and it takes my breath away."
Members of Douglas' family spoke directly to Fleming before sentencing, saying he had ripped their family apart. Douglas' sister, Stephanie Douglas, said their brother took his own life a few months after the killing.
"I know that if Sarah were here, so would my brother, Leroy," she said. "He loved her so dearly. They were so close. Her loss devastated him to the point of no return."
Douglas' mother Trudy Werly also addressed Fleming.
"You went from a hero to a zero. Was it worth it? Was it? She was just a baby. She was my baby," Werly said.
Nicholas Mitrick, who has a son with Sarah Douglas, said he wasn't satisfied with a second-degree murder conviction.
"How do I tell a boy that a firefighter has killed his mother?" Mitrick asked.
Fleming sat still next to his attorney and did not respond. He declined to address the court.
Defense attorney Peter Kmeto said Fleming killed Douglas in an act of passion during a fight. Kmeto declined to comment after sentencing.
Fleming's arrest triggered a months-long investigation into the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection's training academy that led to firings and demotions. Fleming was a teacher at the facility.
Fleming met Douglas through an online escort site and said he planned to divorce his wife of 30 years to be with her.
He testified that he "felt like a zombie" as he stabbed her after they argued when she returned home from a night out at a casino with her mother and sister.
Fleming fled and hid for 16 days in a brushy area near their home while authorities conducted a manhunt.
The fire academy investigation focused on claims of inappropriate behavior at the facility near Sacramento, where Fleming was a teacher.
It determined that employees were drinking on duty, sharing sexually explicit photographs, using a state vehicle to visit prostitutes, sexually harassing a civilian at a bar, and cheating while competing for promotions.
Sixteen academy employees were eventually fired, demoted or quit. Several are appealing the discipline.