Saying the crime affected "the entire community, " Pierce County Superior Court Judge Ronald Culpepper on Friday sentenced a young man convicted of gunning down a fellow student in a hallway of Foss High School two years ago to more than 23 years in prison.
Culpepper also ordered Douglas S. Chanthabouly to be monitored by the state Department of Corrections for the rest of his life once he's released from prison.
Chanthabouly, 20, showed little emotion when the sentence was announced, his blank stare interrupted only by the occasional blink as members of victim Samnang Kok's family sat red-eyed in the courtroom gallery.
Culpepper's sentence of 23 years, four months struck a compromise of sorts between prosecutors and defense attorneys, both of whom had asked for a sentence outside the standard range, which was 15 years to just more than 24 years in prison.
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Deputy prosecutor Fred Wist told Culpepper that Chanthabouly deserved to be locked up for 30 years for killing Kok on Jan. 3, 2007, shortly before first bell in a hall crowded with students, teachers and staff.
The jury that convicted him of second-degree murder April 1 also found that his conduct had a "foreseeable and destructive impact" on people other than Kok, which qualified Chanthabouly for a sentence higher than the standard range.
Wist cited trial testimony from students, faculty and staff who recalled the smell of gunpowder in the air that day and the panic that erupted among students who fled the school, fearful for their lives.
"The first responding law enforcement heard them yelling and screaming that someone was in there killing other people, " Wist said.
Defense attorneys John McNeish and John Chin asked for a sentence of 10 years, three months, saying Chanthabouly's mental illness played a large part in the crime.
They unsuccessfully argued during trial that their client should be acquitted by reason of insanity.
Two mental health experts testified during trial that Chanthabouly suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and was delusional the day he shot Kok, believing the victim was the member of a street gang out to hurt him.
"But for Douglas' mental health problems, this offense would never have occurred, " McNeish said Friday in arguing for a sentence below the normal range.
Both prosecutors and defense attorneys asked that Chanthabouly be placed in community custody for life when he's released from prison.
Kok's relatives, including his mother and older brother, attended the sentencing hearing but declined a chance to address Culpepper.
The family's attorney, Ben Barcus, said Kok's killing had a "profound impact on the family, " especially his mother, Ry Sou.
"On behalf of Mrs. Kok, she believed her son was safe in the sanctity of the school, " Barcus said. "She escaped the killing fields of Cambodia and thought America was safe, and this happened in a school."
Kok's older brother, Rith, submitted a letter to Culpepper in which he described the pain at the loss of Samnang.
"I try not to show my feelings to my family, but it is eating me up inside, " he wrote.
"Sometimes when it hurts so much, I just cry to myself."
None of Chanthabouly's relatives attended the hearing.
His uncle, Kannha Bounchanh, also wrote a letter to Culpepper.
Bounchanh offered apologies and condolences to Kok's family and asked for mercy.
"I would like to see my nephew to be able to get help, have a second chance in life, " he wrote.
Culpepper decided a prison sentence within the standard range was appropriate, given Chanthabouly's mental health.
But he imposed the lifelong monitoring by the Department of Corrections in addition to the prison sentence, saying Chanthabouly needed to be monitored to keep the public safe when he gets out of prison.