A Cheltenham man was convicted of murder Wednesday in the deaths of his wife and mother-in-law.

Frederick Clea, 59, was sentenced to two consecutive life terms in prison for the fatal shootings, which prosecutors said unfolded during an argument at his home as his two young children cowered nearby.

In convicting Clea, Montgomery County Judge Gary Silow said his wife, Latiya, 41, and mother-in-law, Mekenda Saunders, 75, did not deserve to die.

“By committing the murder of your mother-in-law and your wife, the love, hope, and desires of so many people were destroyed,” Silow said at the conclusion of Clea’s bench trial. “Your conduct was horrific and hard to believe.”

Prosecutors said Clea became furious in July 2020 when he couldn’t find an extra magazine for the Glock 9mm handgun he had bought to protect his family. He accused his wife of hiding it and began a heated argument with her as she and her mother were putting away groceries, prosecutors said.

At one point during the argument, Clea retrieved his gun from an upstairs bedroom and fired, striking Saunders in the chest and his wife in the leg, according to trial testimony. As his wife lay on the ground, wounded, prosecutors said, Clea stood over her and fired four more shots, killing her.

He then surrendered without incident to police — who had been summoned by a frantic 911 call his wife made during the gunfire. In trial testimony, Clea said he didn’t remember the shooting, having “blacked out” and awakened standing over his wife’s body.

Clea’s attorney, Thomas Hagen III, said his client “whether through stress, the COVID lockdowns, or just not sleeping enough” wasn’t in his normal state of mind on the morning of the shootings.

“This man went berserk,” Hagen said. “This was a spontaneous killing, not a premeditated, planned murder of two women who were pillars in his life.”

Assistant District Attorney Allison Ruth rejected that assertion and said Clea’s version of that day’s events was “ridiculous.”

“How convenient that he has a crystal-clear memory of everything that happened before he killed his mother-in-law, and then of everything after the police arrived,” Ruth said. “What’s believable is that this defendant, who said he’s been waiting for 18 months for this day, created this story.”

Clea, in addressing Silow, said his trial and conviction were an “obstruction of justice,” and alleged mistreatment by the judicial system, including his former attorney and the staff at the county jail.

He said he plans to appeal the verdict and asked his family to forgive him for actions he blamed on a “chemical imbalance” caused by his thyroid disease.

“What happened here was by my hand, but it wasn’t by my heart or my mind, and that’s not being pursued here,” Clea said. “I would not destroy with my left hand the home I built with my right hand.”

Latiya Clea’s niece, Chiamarah Saunders, told the judge she felt justice was served by Clea’s conviction in the death of her aunt and grandmother.

“I believe in eternal life after someone passes away,” she said. “If it means I can’t have eternal life because I can’t forgive someone, I’m willing to lose that, because I want him to know I will forever be heartbroken.”