Southern California man sentenced to death for meat cleaver murders

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A Southern California man who killed two women with a meat cleaver after a New Year’s Eve party while his wife and son waited in a car outside was sentenced Friday to life in prison without the possibility of Conditional liberation.

Christopher Ken Ireland, 42, of Huntington Beach was convicted in Orange County Superior Court by a judge who called the killings vicious and callous. He was convicted of murder in November.

Ireland testified that he killed Yolanda Holtrey, 59, and Michelle Luke, 49, on January 1, 2017, then returned to set fire to Holtrey’s home, which prosecutors say was an attempt destruction of evidence.

Ireland said the murders took place after Holtrey caught him having sex with Luke while Ireland’s wife and 11-year-old son were in a car parked outside , awaiting departure from Ireland. He said he was defending himself after Holtrey attacked him with the cleaver and later Luke attacked him with a kettlebell.

However, prosecutor Mark Birney said it was “absurd” that Ireland, an army veteran with hand-to-hand combat training, could have been afraid of older, shorter women, reported the Orange County Register.

After killing Holtrey, Ireland said he walked out of the house, but then came back and killed Luke. He returned a third time hours later to set the house on fire, authorities said.

A man who was renting a room in the house woke up smoking and called 911.

This story was originally published February 4, 2022 5:29 p.m.

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