Nathan Eugene Mathis.
Nathan Eugene Mathis. Photo via Escondido Police Department

A man who pleaded guilty to fatally stabbing a retiree in Escondido more than 35 years ago was sentenced Friday to 15 years to life in state prison.

Nathan Eugene Mathis, 67, was arrested in April 2018 at his home in Ontario in connection with the death of 75-year-old Richard Finney, who was stabbed around three dozen times at his East Mission Avenue apartment.

On the morning of Nov. 13, 1986, Finney was found dead in a living room chair at his home, according to Escondido police. Money, jewelry and other miscellaneous items belonging to the victim had been stolen.

Richard Finney was 75 when slain in 1986. Photo via Escondido Police Department

Though knives, fingerprints and blood were located inside Finney’s apartment by investigators at the time, the case went cold until technological advances allowed for further examination of the evidence.

According to Deputy District Attorney Tom Manning, Mathis was tied to the crime scene by a bloody handprint and a fingerprint found on the knob of a sink inside Finney’s home. After Mathis submitted his fingerprints for a job application as a security guard, investigators were able to match his prints to those left at the murder, the prosecutor said.

The case was reopened about two years prior to Mathis’ arrest. Earlier this year, Mathis pleaded guilty to a second-degree murder count.

At Mathis’ sentencing hearing, two of Finney’s granddaughters spoke of the impact the killing had on them and their family, particularly their mother and uncle who died before knowing the outcome of the investigation.

“You had 30 years of living after you killed my grandpa,” Gina Curry told Mathis, who did not make a statement at the hearing. “You had a life, a marriage, family and career. Did you ever think of my grandpa or our family?”

Curry said her mother and uncle “never got over” their father’s death, which has been “an open wound” in the family for decades. She also chided Mathis because her grandfather was particularly vulnerable, as he was paralyzed on one side of his body and recovering from a stroke when he was murdered.

Curry’s sister, Catherine Hollis, said her mother never felt safe after the killing and that sense of danger “plagued her” to the end of her life. On the table next to where Finney was murdered was her return address on an envelope containing a birthday card.

“Mr. Mathis’ decision to take the life of my granddad, with no regards for its effects on us, is inconceivable,” Hollis said.

Before imposing the stipulated 15-year-to-life term, San Diego Superior Court Judge Carlos Armour said, “The question as to who did this heinous crime has been answered. The question as to why it was done, and how could somebody do this to somebody that was obviously unable to defend himself, may never be answered.”

City News Service contributed to this article.