On one recent occasion, the family of a woman murdered in September of 2014 appealed to Rep. Reinbold for help given weakening of the law by SB 91.
Eagle River resident David Joseph Thomas, 28, reportedly faced first- and second-degree murder charges–each of which carries a maximum sentence of 99 years in prison–for admitting to strangling their daughter, Linda Anne Martz Bower.
What began as an expectation of at least Second Degree Murder—a 75-year sentence, 50 to serve, ten years’ probation with a guilty plea—turned into something considerably less due to changes brought by SB 91. At the change-of-plea hearing family members discovered Thomas would likely only have to serve a third of that.
“We weren’t told this by the DA; this was just based on research and coming together, stated the mother, Sherry Miller: “Had we known all the facts prior to agreeing to this plea agreement we would have NEVER agreed to that. NEVER.”
Bower’s step-father, Bradley Miller, continued: “When Linda was first murdered, and plea possibilities were handed down it was Murder One or Murder Two, and that was it. David had a prior history of domestic violence in Montana. There was a violation of a domestic protection order, in which the police were called and he assaulted a police officer and went to prison in Montana. That is a felony in Montana but not here in Alaska.”
This is what some are now calling the revolving door of criminal recidivism.
In December 2016, Thomas pleaded guilty to second-degree murder as part of a plea agreement attorneys said would bring “finality” to the case. In rejecting the deal in April 2017, Judge Kevin Saxby said elements of the agreement—which would impose a sentence of 75 years with 25 suspended, leaving Thomas eligible for parole in 14 years—“cheapens the crime.”
Everyone is still awaiting Thomas’ justice for the crime he admitted committing.
Donn Liston has lived in Alaska since 1962 and in Eagle River since 2010. He was a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News during pipeline construction and is now a teacher after becoming certified in Juneau after living there 20 years. He has taught Adult Basic Education for the last 10 years. To reach Donn, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor: An earlier version of this article incorrectly attributed a quote from Mr. Bradley Miller, it has been corrected. We apologize for this error.