Man gets life in prison for death of S.F. college teacher

An Oakland man was sentenced today to life in prison without the possibility of parole for murdering St. Mary's College and College of San Francisco instructor John Alfred Dennis Jr. for financial gain in February.

Troy Thomas, 43, pleaded guilty in July to first-degree murder in connection with Dennis's death as well as to two special circumstances: murder for financial gain and murder during the course of a robbery.

By pleading guilty, Thomas avoided having to face the death penalty.

Prosecutor Mark Jackson said Thomas and Dennis, who was 59 when he was killed, met many years ago when Thomas was a troubled teenager and Dennis mentored him as part of a program for inner-city youth.

Despite Dennis's efforts, Thomas was convicted of murder in 1981 when he was a juvenile.

Jackson said the two men reconnected earlier this year and Thomas “hatched a plan” to steal Thomas's identity and all of his assets.

“It was a situation where the defendant (Thomas) saw an opportunity and chose to exploit it for financial gain,” Jackson said.

Thomas was arrested on Feb. 9 at the Montara State Beach Park, where he took Dennis's body in hopes of dumping it in the ocean.

Thomas later confessed to the killing and said he killed Dennis at his home at 8011 Hansom Drive in Oakland.

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