updated 11/10/2007 7:31:52 PM ET 2007-11-11T00:31:52

A California man accused of plowing his car into a crowd on the Las Vegas Strip in a crash that killed three people was sentenced Friday to life in prison without parole, his lawyer said.

Stephen M. Ressa, 29, last month pleaded guilty but mentally ill to first-degree murder and attempted murder charges in the Sept. 21, 2005, crash that also injured 11.

Defense lawyer Joseph Abood said the sentence was part of a plea deal made with prosecutors to avoid the death penalty.

Clark County District Court Judge Michelle Leavitt on Friday ruled Ressa was mentally ill, assuring he will receive mental health treatment in prison, Abood said.

Ressa told police shortly after the crash that he drove into a crowded sidewalk in front of the Paris and Bally's hotel-casinos because pedestrians were staring at him "like demons" and concealing weapons.

Ressa also had been charged with steering the car toward a bus stop in what a prosecutor called a "dry run" minutes before the deadly crash. He also was accused of stabbing a jail guard in the neck with a pencil.

Authorities say Ressa assaulted his mother in Rialto, Calif., then stole her car and drove to Las Vegas.

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