by: Amy Clancy Updated:
Aaron Ybarra learned on Friday that he will spend the rest of his life behind bars for terrorizing Seattle Pacific University in June of 2014.
As the 29-year old Mountlake Terrace man was sentenced to an exceptional 112 years, Ybarra expressed deep regret for killing 19-year old Paul Lee and injuring three others by firing a shotgun multiple times.
“I wish this situation had never happened. I wish Paul Lee was still alive,” Ybarra told King County Superior Court Judge Jim Rogers and the courtroom full of victims, family members, students and SPU employees.
Ybarra also spoke of the surviving victims, especially the most seriously injured whom he shot at point-blank range. Sarah Williams “did not deserve what she got that day,” Ybarra said with no expression.
Lee’s father and brother were also in the courtroom. Speaking on behalf of all victims and the SPU community, the mother of Jon Meis – the SPU student who tackled and disarmed Ybarra – said “many parents endured the agony of silence and of not knowing if their child was alive” in the moments after news of the shooting broke.
Anne Meis spoke of the pain and confusion anyone with a loved one at SPU felt when they saw news and social media images of a black-haired victim, without knowing the student’s identity.
Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jessica Berliner requested a sentence of 111 years for bringing despair – not just to SPU -- but to the entire region.
Instead, Judge Rogers went beyond that and sent Ybarra to prison for 112 years.
Rogers also expressed anger at the ease with which people can fuel their hatred through media and online “where the bitter, the aggrieved, the mentally ill and the socially isolated connect with other individuals.”
As she did throughout the six-week trial last fall, Ybarra’s defense attorney blamed mental illness for what Ybarra did.
At her client’s sentencing, Ramona Brandes also expressed gratitude for the stacks of letters SPU students sent to Ybarra -- forgiving him; “the letters that they had sent, the art that they had sent, the love they had sent despite the heinous act that he had perpetrated on their campus.”
After Ybarra had been taken away in handcuffs, his aunt told KIRO 7 the convicted murderer asked her to bring something to campus days after the shooting.
“He asked me to take a card and flowers” to the shooting scene, “when his mind was right,” Audrey Garcia said. “And I did, because he felt bad.”
>>Amy Clancy was in the courtroom every day during the trial. Read all of her blogs here.
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