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New York parolee sentenced to 56 years to life for killing L.A. pen pal

A New York parolee who exchanged letters from prison with a retired Hollywood teacher was sentenced on Wednesday to life in prison for killing his pen pal after he was freed.

Scott Kratlian, 46, was convicted of first-degree murder last month for killing former Hollywood High School teacher Harry Major in February 2014.

Three months after he was released from prison, where he served 20 years for murder, Kratlian showed up in Hollywood and briefly lived with Major, 82, before strangling him.

The relationship between the convicted killer and Major probably was one of many the inmate fostered over the years while imprisoned at Marcy Correctional Facility outside Syracuse, one of Kratlian’s other pen pals, Jason Ward, told The Times last year.

Kratlian met Major through a pen pal network for soap opera fans, Ward and prosecutors said. Authorities said Kratlian was released from prison two days before Thanksgiving, less than a year after a state parole board determined that his crime had been so horrific that releasing him would be to "undermine respect for the law."

In 1992, Kratlian used a belt to kill a man, tying the victim's hands and feet together and beating and burning him, parole board records show.

In prison, Kratlian had a "horrendous" disciplinary record, and his conditional early release was delayed more than four years because of infractions, according to records. He eventually was released under the state's conditional-release program — a separate avenue that doesn't require parole board approval.

A free man after two decades behind bars, Kratlian was in Los Angeles by Feb. 1, authorities say. After months and possibly years of exchanging letters, detectives say, Kratlian went to Major's Hollywood apartment Feb. 10 and strangled him.

When Major failed to show up for a brunch the next morning, concerned friends called police, who discovered his body Feb. 12.

"He was a man of kindness and brilliance. To see one's kindness repaid by one's life is beyond unfair," said Norman Goldstein, one of Major's former students, who was part of the class of 1972.

"I received a yearly call on my birthday and missed this year," said Goldstein, whose birthday was Feb. 12.

Major's friendship with Kratlian was known among his friends, who told police about the ex-convict after Major's body was found. Police said that the two had been seen together shortly before Major's death and that Kratlian apparently used Major's credit cards after the slaying.

New York officially listed Kratlian as a fugitive Feb. 14 after police identified him as their suspect. He was arrested by an LAPD and FBI fugitive task force at a Pasadena mental health and substance-abuse treatment center Feb. 18, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department records show.

Contact the Homicide Report. Follow@latimeshomicide on Twitter.

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