‘An insult to justice’: Family of murdered teen begs judge to reject suspect’s plea agreement
Updated at 6:10 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 15
The man accused of strangling his girlfriend to death pleaded guilty to second-degree murder Wednesday as part of an agreement that could set him free in 14 years.
At the hearing, 30-year-old David Thomas asked Anchorage District Court Judge Kevin Saxby to give him the maximum penalty for killing 19-year-old Linda Bower on Sept. 10, 2014. Saxby accepted the plea, but noted that he would not make a decision about the agreement until the sentencing hearing.
Bower’s family was at the hearing and requested the opportunity to speak before the court.
“Our daughter Linda was only 19 years old when she was senselessly taken from us 2 years, three months and four days ago,” Bower’s father, Lonny Bower, said, calling the plea deal “an insult to justice and a disgrace to our family and our daughter Linda.”
Holding onto a framed photo of her daughter, Sherry Miller tearfully pleaded for Saxby to reject the plea agreement.
“Our daughter no longer has a voice. We, her parents and her family, are her voice, and this individual does not deserve parole at any time. My daughter doesn’t get to breathe the air that he breathes. She doesn’t get to fulfill her life as she deserved,” she said. “It may be a good deal for the state, but it is an insult to the family.”
Taking the opportunity to speak for himself at the hearing, Thomas told Saxby that sentencing him to “anything shy of 99 is a great mercy.”
“Having said that, I do ask you to sincerely consider Linda’s family’s petition and just really take to heart their concerns in all the matters,” he said quietly. “Not sure specifically what’s said in the petition, but they are right on the fact that Linda doesn’t a have voice in this and they are her voice.”
The hearing was the first time Linda Bower’s family has seen Thomas since he was arraigned.
“To see him for the first time since he was arraigned just opens everything back up — every image, every emotion — and to hear him say that he would basically rather be locked away, it would be an answer to our prayers that we wouldn’t have to go through this, wouldn’t have to go through a trial, endure weeks of pictures and testimony and things that aren’t true ’cause I know how court systems go,” Miller said. “I know how trials go and she deserves for him to be put away without going to trial.”
Thomas has previously claimed that he remembered putting his hands around Linda Bower’s throat, but said when he woke up, he was on the floor and she was “stiff.” He fled with her body in his brother’s vehicle, and later turned himself in to police.
“What he did was blatant. What he did, what he set out to do, he has no regard for human life. And she was only 19 and maybe 100 pounds and what defense did she have?” Miller said. “So I hope I hear her voice till the day I die and this will not end. If it goes bad for us, I will be here on this door every time it’s open and fight for her, she deserved it.”
Under the plea agreement, Thomas would we eligible for parole within 16 years, sooner because of time he has already served. He has been in custody since his arrest on Sept. 11, 2014.
“Every two years our family would be forced to go through this, and every other family would be forced to go and live through this just because of [Senate Bill] 91,” Lonny Bower said after the hearing, explaining how Thomas would be eligible to appeal if he is denied parole.
In an email Thursday, Jordan Shilling, a staff member for Sen. John Coghill, said that statement is not true. Shilling has reached out to the Office of Victims’ Rights to meet with the Bower family to clear up any confusion.
Shilling also pointed out that SB 91 increased the mandatory minimum for first- and second-degree murder, the second of which Thomas pleaded guilty.
Anchorage District Attorney Clint Campion also noted the change, which increases the mandatory minimums by five years.
“From my perspective, this change emphasizes the importance [of] lengthy sentences for defendants who commit homicides,” Campion wrote, adding that SB 91 does not affect the time Thomas must serve before being eligible for parole.
However, Campion stated that if Thomas is not granted parole when he is first eligible, the parole board has the discretion to schedule subsequent hearings within two years. Linda Bower’s family says that could put them and other families through unnecessary pain more frequently.
Before SB 91 became law, the parole board had the discretion to schedule parole hearings, the DA stated. Since 2005, the parole board has had a policy of providing discretionary parole application an opportunity to apply for parole every 10 years, Campion wrote, citing a 2006 court opinion in the case of Brown v. State.
Thomas’ sentencing is scheduled for April 2017.
KTVA 11’s Daniella Rivera, Emily Carlson and Shannon Riddle contributed to this report.
Correction: This story originally contained incorrect and confusing language concerning SB 91. After clarifying with multiple sources, this has been updated to correctly reflect the law.
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