It was a prison sentence 13 years in the making.
Scott Patrick McKinstry sat quietly in a Merced County Superior Court room Friday, as Judge John Kirihara tallied the sentence:
Fiften years to life for second-degree murder, doubled for a previous strike.
Fifteen additional years for the personal use of a firearm and another enhancement to the murder charge.
And six-and-a-half years for possession of a firearm.
In all, 51 years to life.
It was the same sentence that a different Merced judge handed down in March 1998.
McKinstry was retried this December for the 1996 murder of 21-year-old Stephanie Sarabia-Day, after an appellate court determined jury instructions in the 1998 trial were insufficient.
"This is the second time Stephanie's family has had to go through this. They are real troopers," Prosecutor Thomas Cooke said. "This at least gives them the knowledge that the person who killed Stephanie is in prison and is not likely to get out."
(Cooke also prosecuted the case in 1998.)
A jury of five women and seven men determined in December that McKinstry was guilty of murdering his girlfriend, Sarabia-Day, on Jan. 6, 1996 -- killing her with a close range gunshot above her right eye.
Livingston police investigators believe McKinstry, now 39, killed Sarabia-Day after an argument outside the couple's home, when Sarabia-Day allegedly tried to leave him.
Police said he buried a .38-caliber handgun after killing her, cleaned the victim's blood off himself and then called police to report a drive-by shooting.
Sarabia-Day was a teller at the Farmers & Merchants Bank on Carpenter Road in Modesto at the time.
McKinstry has been imprisoned since 1998.
At Friday's sentencing, members of her family asked Kirihara for the longest prison term possible.
"I would hope that you give him the most that you can so he can't do this to someone else's sister," Charlene Chappel said as she choked back tears. "He cares more about winning his freedom than murdering my sister."
McKinstry's attorney, Jeffrey Tenenbaum, asked the judge not to consider a prior felony conviction for arson, which would double the minimum sentence for the second-degree murder charge.
Kirihara denied the defense's motion.
Tenenbaum said his client planned to appeal the case again. An appeals attorney will take the case.
"He's never shown remorse," Chappel said outside the courtroom. "That's the hardest part."
Reporter Danielle Gaines can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or firstname.lastname@example.org.