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San Marcos man gets 31 years for killing mother with hammer

SAN MARCOS — A San Marcos man who beat his mother to death with a hammer, then set himself on fire inside a car where he’d concealed her body, was sentenced Wednesday to 31 years to life in state prison.

Sean Devin McCarthy, 32, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and burglary charges in the June 8, 2021, slaying of 68-year-old Denise McCarthy.

Prosecutors say McCarthy broke into his parents’ home on El Toro Lane and attacked his mother after his father had left the home to go to work.

After killing the victim, he put her body in the trunk of her car, drove to Escondido, then set himself on fire while still inside the vehicle, according to the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office.

Police and fire personnel found the car ablaze on Foothill View Place. McCarthy was rescued by fire personnel and taken to a hospital burn ward with serious injuries that the DA’s Office said have left him permanently disabled.

“This is a horrific case of murder and elder abuse that affects an entire family and the community in which the parents lived,” District Attorney Summer Stephan said in a statement. “When a life is taken by a family member, nothing can make the family whole again, but today’s sentence provides a measure of justice for the defendant.”

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