VAN NUYS — A Santa Monica man was sentenced Thursday to 56 years to life in prison for beating a female friend to death with a hammer.

Adel Tabrizi Chapel, 25, was convicted Nov. 15 of first-degree murder for the Feb. 28, 2009, beating death of Denise Figueroa, 22, of North Hills.

Jurors also found true the allegation that Chapel used a hammer in the crime.

A week after the murder, an anonymous fax sent to KTLA-TV led to the victim’s body being found in the trunk of her car in Valley Village. She had been reported missing by her mother.

Figueroa had been struck at least nine times in the head and suffered other wounds to her arm that were likely defensive, investigators said.

Although the two knew each other, it was unclear whether they had a romantic relationship, and a motive for the slaying has never been revealed.

“Only two people can say; one of them is dead,” Deputy District Attorney Jane Creighton said last month.

Van Nuys Superior Court Judge Martin Herscovitz denied the defense’s motion for a new trial, Creighton said.

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