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FILE - This undated file photo provided by the Arizona Department of Corrections shows Travis Ricci. He was sentenced on Thursday, March 7, 2019, of murder and other charges for trying to kill a black man and fatally shooting the man's white girlfriend after a 2009 dispute at a Phoenix park.

PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- A neo-Nazi learned his punishment for trying to kill a black man and murdering the man's white girlfriend near a Phoenix park nearly a decade ago.

A jury sentenced Travis Ricci to life in prison on Thursday. He was facing the death penalty.

Ricci stood stoically with his hands in his pockets as the sentence was read aloud in court.

He was convicted of murder, attempted murder and other charges last month.

On Oct. 3, 2009, Ricci yelled racial slurs at Kelly Ann Jaeger's boyfriend, Jeffery Wellmaker, while they walked in Palma Park at 12th Street and Dunlap Avenue. He harassed Wellmaker about dating a white woman.

Ricci then left to get a shotgun, and a friend drove him to where the couple was. He fired at the couple from the car as they stood by a pay phone near Seventh Street and Dunlap Avenue. Police said Ricci was trying to shoot Wellmaker but hit Jaeger instead.

Jaeger later died.

Prosecutors sought the death penalty, claiming the killing was meant to further the interests of the Vinlanders Social Club, a neo-Nazi group with a reputation for violence. Ricci's lawyer said his client wasn't a member of the Vinlanders.

In an unrelated crime months after Jaeger's shooting death, police say Ricci stabbed two men who tried to stop him from attacking his girlfriend. He is serving a 22-year sentence for assault and weapons misconduct convictions in that case.

[RELATED: 2 men charged in Phoenix hate-crime shooting (Sept. 30, 2010)]

Aaron Levi Schmidt, who authorities say was driving the car used in the attack on Jaeger and Wellmaker, has pleaded guilty to murder in Jaeger's death.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


Copyright 2019 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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