Steven Bradley Roberts chased vodka with malt liquor, and then used both to wash down a couple of painkillers before fatally stabbing his girlfriend last year at their Puyallup apartment, court records show.
He pleaded guilty Wednesday in Pierce County Superior Court to second-degree murder for 57-year-old Carol Young’s death. Before Roberts was sentenced, his attorney told the judge that Roberts’ alcoholism was at the core of the crime.
Judge Gretchen Leanderson accepted what’s known as an Alford plea from Roberts — meaning that while he pleaded guilty to the charge, he maintained his innocence — but conceded prosecutors could likely prove otherwise.
Leanderson then sentenced Roberts, 57, to 16 years, 8 months in prison — the term Deputy Prosecutor Jared Ausserer suggested — instead of the 12 years, 3 months Roberts sought.
The sentence includes a two-year enhancement because Roberts used a deadly weapon in the crime. Young was stabbed 35 times in her chest and neck.
“The egregiousness of the offense outweighs the mitigation,” the judge said.
In asking for a sentence at the shortest end of the standard range, paperwork filed from the Department of Assigned Council cited Roberts’ alcoholism and injuries from youth football and two explosions he was exposed to while serving in the Air Force as a bomb technician.
“While he is responsible for his actions, it’s important to note that he likely inherited his predisposition toward addition,” the paperwork states. “We can’t know how much of a role brain injury from combat blasts and years of playing football as a youth may have played in setting him upon his tragic path.”
Roberts gave a short statement before he was sentenced, choking up and pausing multiple times.
“I can’t express myself. It’s not me. I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m sorry to the Young family and my family for putting them through this heartache.”
In a psychological evaluation filed with the court, Roberts said he drank three-quarters of a bottle of vodka the day of Young’s stabbing, chased it with malt liquor, and at some point drank more of each after taking a couple of pain pills.
He said he remembered arguing with Young about cigarettes, but not much after that. She’d recently spent her monthly income and some of his money, he said, and they were having trouble coming up with rent.
Neighbors called 911 on Dec. 5 after hearing Young scream for help from an apartment in the Meridian Pointe complex, 407 Valley Ave. NE.
Officers arrived, Roberts let them into the apartment soon after, and they found Young dead inside.