LOS ANGELES—A former mortician was sentenced Monday to 25 years to life in prison for plotting to kill a funeral business rival in a decades-old case that initially resulted in an unusual sentence of lifetime probation.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Dorothy Shubin imposed the sentence against David Wayne Sconce, 56, finding he had violated his lifetime probation with a federal conviction late last year for having a stolen firearm in Montana.

"It was made clear he could not have a gun for any purpose," said Shubin, who added later, "This is something Mr. Sconce willingly chose to do."

His convoluted legal saga dates from macabre crimes at his family's Pasadena funeral home that included stealing gold dental fillings from the dead in the 1980s to his sentencing last year for stealing a neighbor's rifle.

Sconce, wearing a blue, jail-issued jumpsuit, showed no reaction when Shubin issued the sentence, but he later shook his head and sat stonefaced. He said a neighbor gave him the rifle and he kept it for a short time because he wanted to protect his pets from wolves.

"I did something I shouldn't have done," Sconce said in court. "I have to take responsibility for what I've done."

Outside of court, Sconce's lawyer Roger Diamond said his client has more than 10 years that can be credited to his sentence for previous time served for various court dates and believes Sconce could be released within several years.

"He's being practical right now," Diamond said. "He really had no defense. We were basically throwing ourselves on the mercy of the court.


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The judge chose not to exercise her discretion."

Deputy District Attorney Thomas Krag said he thinks Sconce won't serve more than 10 years in prison.

Sconce was sentenced in 1989 to a five-year prison term for mutilating corpses, conducting mass cremations at a ceramics kiln and hiring thugs to rough up three competing morticians.

He was later charged with conspiring to hire a hit man to murder a potential buyer of a rival crematory. A judge who dismissed the case said that if prosecutors successfully appealed, Sconce could plead guilty and be placed on lifetime probation.

After a couple rounds of appeals, Sconce ended up pleading guilty to murder conspiracy in 1997 and was placed on lifetime probation, an unusual sentence in California.

When Sconce was hauled back into court in 2002 for an unspecified probation violation, Judge Joseph De Vanon told him, "If you come back before me on a violation of probation, I will sentence you to life in prison."

Then last year, Sconce was sentenced to five years of probation after trying to sell the stolen rifle at a Montana pawn shop.

Shubin made good on the previous judge's promise after listening to nearly a daylong worth of arguments by both attorneys.

In arguing for the stiffest sentence, Krag said Sconce has received numerous breaks from the judicial system and reinstating probation for Sconce would be like having "Christmas in May."

"This could not be a more egregious violation of his probation," Krag said of the weapons conviction.