Prosecutors said Samuel Dunwoody, now 52, killed Margaret "Peggy" Telford, 68, in 1988 because she discovered him looking for items to steal while he was in her home in Belfast, the Belfast Telegraph reported. Telford had tried to help Dunwoody's family with donated clothes and other aid.
"You killed someone who did you no harm and offered you kindness and you thought you got away with it," Judge Corinne Philpott said as she imposed a life sentence with a minimum of 19 years before he can be considered for release.
Dunwoody was living in Birmingham, England, when he became a suspect in the killing. Police said his DNA matched material found under Telford's fingernails after her body was discovered in February 1988.
Philpott said Telford had offered Dunwoody a cup of tea and that he then went upstairs to look for items to steal. He attacked her when she realized what he was doing.
Dunwoody has a record of assaults dating back to 1982 and as recent as 2009, police said.