EL CAJON — Larry Hoagland, who tried to kill his wife by planting a pipe bomb in her pickup nearly two years ago, stared almost unblinkingly at the faces of family members Tuesday as they spoke at his sentencing hearing about moving on with their lives.
His 16-year-old son, Jonathan — the last of his three children to speak — called Hoagland the "worst representation" of what a father could be.
"We are such a strong family now, we are better without you," the teen said, turning toward the defense table where Hoagland was seated.
"These are the last words you will ever hear from me."
After hearing this and other emotional statements in the courtroom, El Cajon Superior Court Judge Herbert Exarhos sentenced Hoagland, 50, to life in prison plus 13 years. Hoagland was convicted May 7 of premeditated attempted murder and three charges related to using an explosive device.
Prosecutors said the defendant, once the respected owner of a photography business in San Diego, made two attempts to kill his wife, Connie, because he wanted to move to Pennsylvania to be with his former high school sweetheart, with whom he was having an affair.
The girlfriend was not aware of the plot to kill.
"Larry's plan was to move away and never see us again," said Jaclyn Reagan, 22, Hoagland's middle daughter. "And that's the one part of his plan that he was able to carry out."
After Hoagland's children spoke, including 25-year-old Jill, it was his ex-wife's turn to speak. Connie Hoagland called the crimes "despicable," a product of his selfishness and narcissism.
"You are so in love with yourself," she said. "You think you have it all figured out. You had it all and you threw it all away for lust, greed and pride."
Deputy District Attorney Kurt Mechals argued that Hoagland's actions were particularly callous because his wife had loved and trusted him, and had no chance to defend herself.
One bomb he planted failed to detonate and was found in the middle of a street a short distance from the family's home in Rolando. It was on a route regularly traveled by his wife.
Two weeks later, on Sept. 23, 2010, a pipe bomb wired to her Ford F-150 exploded when she started it outside the Rancho San Diego day care center where she worked.
She survived but had serious injuries, spending more than a month in the hospital with burns, cuts and broken bones. She underwent seven surgeries.
Defense lawyer Thomas Palmer had argued in trial that the evidence against his client was circumstantial and not strong enough to prove guilt. He pointed to differences between the two bombs and said his client planned to leave the marriage but do so "quickly and quietly."
Larry Hoagland gave a brief statement in the courtroom Tuesday, apologizing to his family, but maintaining his innocence.
"I come here today a broken man," he said. "I'm so very sorry."
Hoagland said he hopes to gain his family's forgiveness eventually, even though he knows he doesn't deserve it, and that they will learn the truth some day.
"I'm not a killer, your honor," he said. "There is nothing diabolical or nefarious about me. The real who and why are still out there."
Connie Hoagland told the judge she believed her husband had previously tried to kill her — by poisoning her coffee and by smothering her with a pillow. She said she has been able to forgive but is thankful he is headed to prison.
"I want you to know you have no hold or control over me anymore," she said. "I am free."