A man who gruesomely murdered two women with a meat cleaver while his wife and son were just steps away will spend the rest of his life behind bars, KTTV reports.
Christopher Ken Ireland, 42, was sentenced Friday to life in prison without the chance of parole for killing 59-year-old Yolanda Holtrey and 49-year-old Michelle Luke after a New Year’s Eve party five years ago.
On December 31, 2016, Ireland attended the party with his wife and 11-year-old son at Holtrey’s home in the city of Westminster, near Los Angeles.
Holtrey and Luke are said to have worked with Ireland’s wife at a department store.
In Ireland’s version of events, Luke had been flirting with him during the gathering, so after it ended, he walked his wife and son to a car and went back inside the house, where he claims he began having sex with Luke, according to the Orange County Register.
Ireland alleged that Holtrey walked in on the purported tryst, became upset, and told Ireland he must tell his wife about having sex with Luke.
It is at this point when Ireland claims Holtrey began attacking him with a meat cleaver. He alleged that he was able to steal the knife away from her and then used it against her in self-defense.
After leaving the residence briefly, Ireland returned and alleged that Luke attacked him with a kettlebell. He responded by headbutting Luke, throwing her down, and striking her with the meat cleaver — also, he asserted, in self-defense.
Ireland reportedly left the residence, but security camera footage is said to show him coming back a third time wearing a ski mask. The recording shows him dragging both women, whose bodies were wrapped in blankets, to his car. He then tried to set the home on fire.
Ireland apparently attempted to destroy the security camera footage but was only partially successful. He claims that he dumped the bodies in a wooded area of Newport Beach, got his car washed, and threw away the cleaver.
Prosecutors said Ireland’s assertion of self-defense was “absurd,” questioning how an Army veteran with combat training would fear the victims, who were much smaller than him.
The prosecution theorized that Holtrey may have observed Ireland trying to force himself onto Luke.
Holtrey’s son testified that he believed Ireland committed the murders to “keep his family from finding out that he was a cheating rapist,” according to the Register.
Mandee Figueroa, Luke’s sister, testified that Luke was “beautiful, brilliant, big-hearted and beloved,” the Register reports.
“We have to spend our lives without Michelle because of this diabolical murderer,” Figueroa told the court, according to the Register.
In November, Ireland was convicted on two counts of first-degree murder and one count of arson. Special aggravated circumstances were applied to the conviction because Ireland killed more than one person, according to the newspaper.
“I don’t know that I have often, if ever, seen a crime as callous as what you did in this case,” Orange County Superior Court Judge Sheila Hanson said during the sentencing hearing, according to the Register.
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[Feature Photo: Facebook, Police Handout]