Scott Wesley Humphreys will spend nearly 16 years in prison for killing his uncle, a judge ruled Thursday after hearing several tearful pleas for leniency from relatives of both men.
More than a dozen friends and family members attended the sentencing. Four spoke on Humphreys' behalf, saying he was a loving, kind father and grandfather who never meant to kill 62-year-old David “Lonny” Peterson in Longview on the night of Dec. 21, 2012.
Carolyn Powell, aunt to Humphreys and sister to Peterson, said she and her siblings have forgiven Humphreys for Peterson’s death.
“I know Lonny, and I’m asking for compassion because Lonny would want it for Scott,” she told Superior Court Judge Michael Evans. “This is not in Scott’s nature. If Lonny had lived he’d be standing here asking please, please help him.”
Humphreys, who abruptly pleaded guilty to second-degree murder earlier this month in the midst of his trial, told Evans on Thursday that he did so to spare his family from having to testify against him. He also reiterated self-defense claims that Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor James Smith said had no place at a sentencing hearing, because guilt had already been admitted.
Humphreys, 49, wept during much of the hearing, including during his own statement to Evans.
“I fought for my life,” he told the judge, describing his uncle as the aggressor and his own reaction as pure instinct. “My family has been through a monumental amount of insanity, and if I could stop that by sacrificing myself, then so be it,” he said, explaining his guilty plea.
Humphreys’ lawyer Terry Mulligan also asked for leniency, noting Humphreys’ age and ill health. He said a prison term on the low end of the sentencing range would give Humphreys at least a chance of spending some time with family after his release.
Judge Evans called the case tragic for all involved, but he noted that Peterson was the ultimate victim in the case. He recalled how Peterson pleaded with people to save him as he waited for ambulance crews to arrive.
“I understand the idea that ‘We’ve lost one family member and we don’t want to lose another,’ ” Evans told Humphreys’ relatives. But, he added, all life is sacred, and even loving, kind people are responsible for their actions.
He sentenced Humphreys to 190 months total — 130 months for the murder and 60 more for a firearms enhancement. That’s less than the 200 months Smith had recommended; Mullligan requested a sentence near the low range, 183 months. The sentence could have been as high as 280 months, or more than 23 years.
Humphreys’ Feb. 4 guilty plea acknowledged that he caused Peterson’s death but that he did not intend for his uncle to die.
Peterson was shot with his own gun in the doorway of his West Longview apartment on the night of the so-called 12-21-12 Mayan Apocalypse. The prosecution said Humphreys was drunk, angry and obsessed with the predicted end of the world when he shot Peterson in a rage. Humphreys argued that he shot his uncle only to save his own life. Thursday, he said the claims that the apocalypse prophecy influenced him were ludicrous.
Smith noted that testimony in the aborted trial showed that after the shooting Humphreys sat in the room asking for a light for his cigarette while others helped Peterson, who lay bleeding and paralyzed on the floor. “There certainly was not an overwhelming amount of remorse,” Smith said.