1991 murderer now has the chance to walk free

by: Kevin McCarty Updated:

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A killer sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole when he was 16 years old has won his bid to have that sentence drastically reduced. Ansel Hoffstetter, now 38, petitioned the Pierce County Superior Court for a new sentence based on a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision that ruled mandatory life sentences for juveniles unconstitutional. Hoffstetter was convicted of shooting and killing convenience store clerk Linda Miller during a robbery in her Orting store in 1991. Hoffstetter and several accomplices stole $97 and some cigarettes before he shot Miller twice in the back of the head.

In court, Miller's daughter Trista, who was 7 months old at the time of her death, angrily lashed out at Hoffstetter as she asked Judge Kathryn Nelson to deny his request. "I don't think it's right that he's even asking to get out," Miller told the judge before turning to Hoffstetter and tearfully shouting, "Can you even look at me? You ruined my life." "I never got to meet my mom, he took that away from me," said Miller. "He took away my daughter ever meeting her grandma."

Hoffstetter told the court he is a changed man, educated and remorseful for the crime he committed as teenager. "I'm a much different person today than the 16-year-old who pulled that trigger," he said. "I must live the remainder of my life in the most honorable way possible. I owe it to myself and I owe it to Linda Miller."

Judge Nelson agreed with Hoffstetter's argument, slashing his sentence from life to 40 years despite arguments by Pierce County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Stephen Penner that a life sentence was appropriate given the savagery of the crime. Hoffstetter has already served 22 years behind bars and could be released in about 14 years.

Trista Miller wept as she spoke with reporters after the decision. "He gets out, he gets to live a normal life," said Miller, "and it's not fair."