Phoenix man sentenced in girlfriend's 2011 death

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By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

PHOENIX (AP) -- A Phoenix man who pleaded guilty in the beating death of his girlfriend has been sentenced to natural life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Maricopa County prosecutors say 40-year-old Paul Lavon Hamilton was sentenced Friday.

He pleaded guilty in February to first-degree murder, kidnapping and threatening/intimidation charges.

Hamilton was arrested in May 2011 after 46-year-old Stephanie Joyce was found dead inside a pickup truck in north Phoenix. 

He was taken into custody on suspicion of second degree murder, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. 

Phoenix police say it first appeared that Joyce was passed out in the vehicle in the parking lot of a convenience store.

But officers discovered Joyce was dead from blunt-force injuries and that led to Hamilton's arrest.