It was likely Tacoma resident Darrin Brooks was going to die in prison under the terms of a plea agreement he reached with Pierce County prosecutors in the murder of his wife.
Prison time can take a toll on a person’s health, and the 49-year-old Brooks was looking at 29 years under his deal.
Superior Court Judge Katherine Stolz wasn’t taking any chances Friday.
Stolz exercised her discretion and tacked nine years onto the sentence recommended by deputy prosecutor Douglas Hill and defense attorney David Shaw.
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“You will die in prison,” the judge said in handing down the high-end sentence of 38 years.
Brooks shot his wife, Renee, to death during an argument July 3, 2014. He pleaded guilty last month to second-degree murder.
On Friday, the victim’s mother told Stolz that Renee Brooks, 29, didn’t deserve to die the way she did.
“I want to say she was somebody loved,” Maryann Brown said. “If it was up to me, he’d be in there forever. But it isn’t up to me.”
Brooks’ attorney, Shaw, argued that his client deserved the benefit of the deal. He pleaded as charged and admitted his actions, Shaw said.
“He didn’t put his wife’s family through a trial,” the defense attorney argued.
Brooks was up next.
His voice quavered as he apologized for killing his wife, whom he called “a wonderful woman, mother and person.”
“If I could exchange my life for hers today, I would in a heartbeat,” Brooks said.
But he might have made a mistake when he offered up that he was in a dark place at the time of the killing, “mentally, spiritually and physically broken” and using illegal drugs and alcohol to excess.
“A domestic occurred that led to this tragedy that I have been unable to completely recall myself,” Brooks said.
Stolz had been listening, and she wasn’t impressed.
“Well, there’s all sorts of good excuses that every murderer sits here and offers,” the judge said. “I had depression. I was broken. I had medical issues. None of that is an excuse for taking another person’s life.”
Stolz went on, pointing out that Brooks had 20 prior convictions before pleading guilty to murdering his wife.
“You’ve basically spent much of your life in prison, and you’ve been heading toward dying in prison anyway. We’re just going to speed it up a little because you committed this crime,” she said. “There’s no excuse for taking another human being’s life. You can be as upset and unhappy and have as many problems as one possibly can have, but there’s not excuse for killing anyone. There’s always alternatives for taking someone’s life, and you explored none of them.”