Sharon Ostman was found beaten, strangled and sexually assaulted early July 11, 2005, in San Luis Obispo Creek near Mission Plaza.
Nearly three years after the slaying, Freddie Joe Lewis was arrested for her murder. He was sentenced to serve life in prison after pleading no contest -- which results in a conviction without admitting guilt -- to second-degree murder. He is not eligible for parole until he has served 15 years.
Lewis had originally pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, sexual penetration by a foreign object and being a habitual sex offender, according to court records.
Right before his trial was scheduled to begin, he changed his plea.
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Ostman was a 59-year-old homeless woman who friends said was known for her kindness and generosity.
"I didn't meet anyone she didn't feed or buy coffee for out of her own pocket," Denise Mondragon said shortly after Ostman's murder. "Everyone's had a moment with her."
Peter Schustack said he first met Ostman when she offered to walk him home. Schustack is visually impaired.
"Boy I tell you," he added, "I will miss her very much."
San Luis Obispo resident Jennifer Pitts said she organized a vigil after Ostman was found dead as a way to remember a woman she felt compelled to reach out to but never knew well.
"I just felt it was necessary for her and for her community," Pitts said before the vigil began. Ostman's death "was horrific and tragic, and I didn't want that to be the last memory of her."
Pitts said she saw Ostman every day at the post office on Marsh Street and would often stop and say hello.
Ostman's body was found largely unclothed in the creek by a local man who was walking through the Mission Plaza.
Police never reported a motive in the case. But evidence found at the scene included an eyeglass lens that matched Lewis' and his DNA underneath Ostman's fingernails, which had been submerged in the creek for hours, according to Deputy District Attorney Lee Cunningham.
Lewis had also told investigators three different versions of his whereabouts or interactions with Ostman the day of the murder.