Murderer's life sentence reduced; 16 years left to serve

TACOMA, Wash. - Twenty-two years ago a murder case began, leading to a mandatory life sentence for then 16-year-old Ansel Hofstetter. But a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision paved the way for his possible early release, and in court on Friday, the victim's family pleaded with a judge to keep Hofstetter behind bars.

In 1991, Hofstetter and three others planned the robbery of Jackpot Food Mart in Orting. Hofstetter shot the clerk, Linda Miller, twice in the back of the head so she couldn't call the cops and identify them.

Linda Miller's daughter, Trista Miller, was a baby when the murder took place. She tearfully addressed the court as to why Hofstetter should never be released.

"I never got to meet my mom," Trista says. "He took that away from me."

Last year, a U.S. Supreme Court ruled against mandatory life sentences for juveniles, sending Hofstetter's murder case back for reconsideration. The ruling states that mandatory life sentences for juveniles would be cruel and unusual punishment, and therefore unconstitutional.

Hofstetter says the community has nothing to fear from him now, "I'm a much different person today then the 16 year old who pulled that trigger," he said in court. Hofstetter said while in prison he's earned degrees to become a paralegal, and tutors other inmates.

Pierce County Judge Kathryn Nelson lowered his sentence to 40 years, meaning Hofstetter will still serve another 16 years with good time, but could be out when he's in his early fifties.

"It shames me to admit what I did," Hofstetter said. "I know that what I did was so wrong that I will forever be sorry it happened."