AUSTELL, Ga. -- A homeless man has pleaded guilty to beating a 71-year-old Austell resident to death.
Thomas Duane Sparks was convicted of malice murder Friday in the December 2011 death of Joseph Stahl. Charges of felony murder, aggravated assault, aggravated battery and armed robbery were dropped as part of Sparks' plea deal.
He was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 30 years.
Cobb County Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney Jesse Evans said Sparks once rented a room from Stahl. He killed the victim by hitting him repeatedly with a piece of wood.
Sparks, 50, claimed in court he was "real sorry" for killing Stahl.
Lisa McCloud, Stahl's daughter, spoke in court on her family's behalf. She called her father's death a "true nightmare."
"This heinous act has completely devastated my family," McCloud said.