Judge rejects plea deal for man accused of strangling his 19-year-old girlfriend

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Thursday afternoon, a judge rejected a sentence for David Thomas, who pleaded guilty to killing 19-year-old Linda Anne Martz Bower.

In a packed courtroom, Superior Court Judge Kevin Saxby said Thomas needed to be in prison until he had "aged-out," a term used to describe when a defendant is older. In this case, Saxby said it would most likely be when Thomas is in his 50s.

Thomas has pleaded guilty to murder in the second degree for the strangulation death of Bower in an Eagle River home in 2014. State prosecutors say Bower was found in Thomas' car after he called 911 to surrender to police.

The sentence presented in court Thursday was for 75 years with 25 suspended and 50 to serve. He would have to serve one-third of that sentence. So at this point, Thomas would have been eligible for parole in about 14 years.

In court, Bower's mother and father, Sherry Miller and Lonny Bower, tearfully pleaded with Saxby to give Thomas a longer sentence. Miller said 75 years flat would be more appropriate.

"I am aware of the harsh reality that nothing will ever bring my daughter back," Miller said. "But I plead with the court to give our family justice and to give Linda justice, and I implore the court to hold Mr. Thomas accountable for what he has done, and I ask you reconsider and reject this current plea."

They both spoke about a loving teenager who had a passion for animals, especially snakes and lizards. Pictures of Linda Anne's life were projected on a large screen in the courtroom, as a recording of her singing Black Bird played.

Crying could be heard throughout the courtroom, which also included Edith Grunwald, whose son, David, was killed last year in the Valley, as well as Butch Moore, whose daughter, Breanna, was shot and killed by her boyfriend at an Anchorage Hillside home. "Bree's Law" was named after Breanna, which is a bill mandating sexual assault prevention and appropriate relationship education.

Lonny Bower spoke first.

"Memories and dreams, that's all I have left," Bower said. "Memories of what was, and dreams of what should have been, is what remains of my Linda Anne. To communicate the impact for you for having experienced the loss of Linda is certainly an impossible task."

Thomas also read a statement in court asking the judge to accept the deal.

"Linda put all her trust and confidence in me. Her family even trusted me with their most prized possession," Thomas said. "Instead of being faithful to this priceless diamond entrusted to me, I did the opposite. I repaid a true and genuine kindness with a vile and disgusting evil. Over the last 31 months, I have asked myself the hows and whys thousands of times. I ask these questions to make sense of what little memories I have of that awful night, on September of 2014."

With the rejection of the plea deal, the judge said the guilty verdict goes away and everything starts again.

As the judge outlined his reasons for rejecting the deal, he talked about Thomas' chances at rehabilitation.

"I view the prospects of rehabilitation as being dim," Saxby said. "The other part of this is that a majority of his life has been spent in alcohol and substance abuse, by his own statements, that has had an effect, on obviously that, in combination with whatever mental issues may need to be addressed, has led to these violent episodes."

Outside the courtroom, Linda Anne's family hugged each other and several friends who attended the sentencing.

"I think the judge really understands the severity of Mr. Thomas and the threat that he is, and he's beyond being rehabilitated," Miller said. "And you know, do I want this over today? I would love for it to be over today, but I'm willing to go longer to get the sentence that he deserves."

The next pre-trial conference is scheduled for July.

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