Bonney Lake man sentenced to 8.5 years in prison for accidental shooting death of neighbor
TACOMA, Wash. - A Bonney Lake man who fired his gun wildly at a car thief was sentenced to eight years Friday because one of the bullets accidentally killed a neighbor.
Tobin Panton is beginning his sentence right away.
"This day has not come soon enough," said victim Linda Green's brother Marvin.
Her family wore purple shirts in court on Friday because it was Linda's favorite color. Some of the shirts had the words, 'to know me is to love me' printed on them, which her family said was meant to carry on her memory.
Green's life was taken last November when a stray bullet struck her as she got ready for bed.
"I watched helplessly as this beautiful, wonderful, amazing person who cared for everyone, loved everyone, took her last and final breath," Linda's granddaughter Star Mace told the court.
Panton told deputies someone was stealing his jeep from his driveway. As the car was driven away he pulled out his handgun and fired 12-15 shots hoping to stop it. Those bullets flew down the street in the direction of Green's home.
"He chose to take a life that night," Marvin Green told the court. "He intended to kill. Linda may not have been the intended victim but her murder was not an accident."
"And whenever you see the color purple remember what was taken. Was your Jeep worth the life you destroyed and taken?" Linda's son, Paul Culp Sr., told Panton in court.
But, Panton said he never intended to harm anyone.
"I'm very, very sorry. I can't say that enough. I didn't want to hurt anybody. I was just trying to stop a kid from being a punk," he told the court.
Green's family had hoped for a longer sentence. Under the plea agreement, the judge sentenced Panton for manslaughter to the high end of the standard range at 8.5 years.
Green's family members said they had hoped there would be five years additional for the use of a firearm, but that was not part of the plea agreement. The agreement means the case won't have to go through a lengthy trial.