Crime

Life sentence, again, for defendant convicted of murdering two Spanaway teens 20 years ago

Nga Ngoeung went to Pierce County Superior Court on Friday looking for a break that might allow him one day to leave state prison a free man.

That break did not come.

Judge Stanley Rumbaugh said he saw no reason to give Ngoeung a sentence other than the one he automatically received in 1995 for his role in the deaths of Spanaway residents Robert Forrest and Michael Welden, both 17.

That was life in prison without the possibility of parole.

A 2012, a U.S. Supreme Court opinion paved the way for Ngoeung to ask for a new sentence.

Ruling in the case of Miller v. Alabama, the nation’s high court decided that automatic sentences of life without parole for juveniles violated the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Judges could still sentence certain juvenile offenders to life, but not without holding a hearing to determine whether mitigating factors, including the defendant’s age and upbringing, might call for a lighter sentence.

The Legislature last year rewrote state sentencing laws to comport with that decision and made it retroactive.

That paved the way for Ngoeung’s hearing Friday.

Ngoeung, 38, was 17 when he was charged with two counts of aggravated first-degree murder and other felonies in the deaths of Forrest and Welden.

Investigators said he drove the car that pursued the victims Aug. 26, 1994, after they’d thrown eggs at random houses. Another teenager in the car opened fire, killing the victims.

Deputy prosecutor Jared Ausserer recommended Friday that Ngoeung be re-sentenced to life without parole.

“The defendant showed a complete and utter disregard for human life,” Ausserer argued.

John Forrest, Robert Forrest’s father, was given a chance to address Rumbaugh. He said the pain of losing his son is still fresh 20 years later. He, too, asked for a life sentence for Ngoeung.

Defense attorneys Edward De Costa and Jason Johnson presented evidence that Ngoeung had a troubled upbringing, and they argued he deserved a sentence that some day might let him get out of prison.

Rumbaugh was unswayed by the defense’s position and said he thought Ngoeung was beyond redemption and should be locked away for life. He then so ordered.

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