A 69-year-old Puyallup man who shot his two adult children to death as they slept in his home last year was sentenced Thursday to five years in prison.
Pierce County prosecutors had recommended a 31-year sentence for Michael League, who will turn 70 next month.
But Superior Court Judge Garold Johnson decided to give League a drastically reduced sentence after the defendants attorney, family and friends recounted the living hell victims Dennis League and Danielle Faucett put their parents through for years.
Dennis League, 46, was an alcoholic, Faucett, 43, a schizophrenic who abused drugs. They stole from their parents, berated them almost constantly and physically abused them, witnesses testified.
"Nobody could live like they were living, family friend Donna McArthur said of Michael and Jo Ann League. You cant imagine what they went through.
On March 24, League retrieved his .22-caliber pistol and shot his children in the head after he and his wife returned from a getaway to the ocean to discover police had been to their home to investigate a fight while theyd been gone. It was the 167th time police had been to the house over the years, mostly to deal with Dennis League and Faucett, witnesses testified Thursday.
Michael League used a pillow to muffle the sound so as to not wake his wife and two young grandsons, who were in the house at the time. He then called 911 to report hed committed a fathers worst sin, court records show.
Prosecutors charged him with two counts of first-degree murder. He pleaded guilty Thursday to two counts of second-degree murder as part of a plea deal. As part of the deal, prosecutors said theyd seek a 31-year sentence but wouldnt oppose Leagues request for a sentence below the standard range.
Defense attorney Mary K. High made that pitch Thursday. She described the Leagues as good parents who did all they could to care for their children, even after they chose wrong paths in life.
They provided rehab, treatment, places to live, High said. They would even drive their children to appointments and make sure the mental-health professionals could come to the house to have a meeting.
They were repaid with abuse that escalated over the years, she said.
In Mikes mind there was nothing else he could do that would protect his beloved wife, who he loves so very much, said High, who suggested incarceration of no more than four years. Leagues family and friends wanted him released with credit for time served.
Jo Ann League told Johnson her husband was pushed over the edge by all the trauma, violence and chaos in our home. She asked the judge to show mercy and release League, who suffers from numerous illnesses.
Hes already going to be in jail for the rest of his life, feeling bad for what he did, she said. Hes absolutely broken-hearted. So am I.
Two of Michael Leagues grandchildren, including Dennis Leagues daughter Kayla, testified on their grandfathers behalf.
I just want my grandpa to come home and get the treatment he needs, she said through tears.
Michael League wept throughout the hearing, including when he was given a chance to speak.
I do not cry for myself. I cry for my children, my wife, my family and my friends, he said. I take full responsibility for what I did. I loved my children when they were born. I love them now, and I always will love them, no matter what happened. I will never forget my children, and I will live to regret what I did for the rest of my life.
The judge took the lunch break to formulate Leagues sentence.
Once court resumed, Johnson began by reminding everyone that two people were dead, killed at their fathers hands.
There were alternatives, the judge said, including seeking professional help in getting Dennis League and Faucett out of the house. Murder is not easier. It is not acceptable. It is criminal. But Johnson went on to say Leagues crimes were mitigated by the behavior of his children, who, in essence, he ruled, committed years of domestic violence against the defendant and Jo Ann League.
There was a pattern, certainly of emotional abuse and physical abuse to some extent, the judge said. There was a pattern of theft and deception and emotional abuse that very few could probably tolerate over the years.
The court does find, to a significant degree, the victims, both of them, provoked this incident.
Johnson then sentenced League to two five-year terms, to run concurrently, and awarded him credit for the nearly year hes already served in jail awaiting the resolution of his case. League turned then turned his family and friends, patted his heart with his hand and smiled through his tears.
Way to go, Michael, one of his supporters yelled before jailers led League off to serve out his sentence.