Thomas Jeffrey Brooks, 41

Thomas Jeffrey Brooks, 41

HEMET -- A 41-year-old ex-con pleaded guilty today in San Diego to first-degree murder for killing an 80-year-old Hemet man, encasing the body in concrete and using the victim's credit cards to go on a spending spree.

Thomas Jeffrey Brooks also admitted to numerous counts of second-degree burglary, and will be sentenced to 75 years to life in prison by San Diego County Superior Court Judge David Gill on June 22.

A special circumstance allegation of murder for financial gain, which would have made Brooks eligible for the death penalty, was dismissed in exchange for the plea.

Brooks was in federal prison when he became pen pals with victim Edward Clayton Andrews, San Diego County Deputy District Attorney Dino Paraskevopoulos said.

The defendant was released in 2007, moved into a Hemet mobile home with Andrews and began a same-sex romantic relationship with him, the prosecutor said.

On May 31, 2008, a neighbor saw Brooks go into the mobile home. When the neighbor asked Andrews if he was OK, he replied "yes," Paraskevopoulos said.

"After that he was never seen again," the prosecutor said.

An ATM surveillance camera at a bank in Orange County recorded Brooks withdrawing $500 from Andrews' account that night, he said.

The burglary charges stemmed from Brooks buying hundreds of dollars of goods with the victim's credit cards at various stores at the Citadel outlet mall in Los Angeles, the Glendale Galleria and various businesses in Los Angeles and Orange counties over the next week.

The prosecutor said Brooks withdrew $24,000 from the victim's accounts and took money from $108,000 in phony check deposits.

Several people who knew Andrews testified at an earlier hearing that the victim expressed fear of Brooks.

Brooks had been allowed to build a concrete centerpiece for a rock garden at his landlord's Alabama Street home in San Diego. When his North Park neighbors learned he'd been arrested on financial fraud charges, they partially broke the concrete and discovered a human foot, according to Paraskevopoulos.

Andrews, who died of asphyxiation, had been wrapped in a blanket and plastic tarp, with duct tape and chicken wire used to secure the remains in the homemade tomb, the prosecutor said.

Arlo Elizarraraz, 20, an acquaintance of Brooks who helped encase the body and lived off some of the money, pleaded guilty to 55 felony counts -- including being an accessory to murder -- and was sentenced last month to nine years in state prison.

Brooks had earlier been in federal prison for a 1990 arson conviction in

Charlotte, N.C.