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Man sentenced to 8 1/2 years after stray bullet killed neighbor sleeping in bed

TACOMA, Wash. – A Bonney Lake man will spend nearly a decade behind bars after prosecutors said he took the law into his own hands.

Investigators said Tobin Panton was trying to shoot a fleeing car thief when one of his stray bullets flew through a neighbor’s home and struck her in the head, killing 62-year-old Linda Green.

Panton pleaded guilty to a charge of second-degree manslaughter in July. His attorney hoped to convince the court to be lenient in sentencing, but on Friday the judge threw the book at him, sentencing Panton to the maximum limit.

Green had recently retired from Boeing – but her life was cut short while she slept in her own bed.

“You can’t call it an accident if you try to kill somebody and succeed,” Green’s brother Marvin Green said in court.

“My mom was known as the purple lady,” said Paul Culp Sr. while reading a victim impact statement in court. “She had kids, grandkids and great grandkids. She loved life and was full of happiness.”

It all happened early on a Friday morning last November on Prairie Ridge Drive in Bonney Lake.

Panton told police he watched a stranger stealing his Jeep and that’s when he grabbed his .40 caliber handgun and opened fire while the suspect took off in his truck.

Except one of those bullets flew through Green’s window. It wasn’t much later that morning that Linda’s family called 911 when they found her injured and bleeding on the floor. She was rushed to a hospital but later died.

Panton’s attorney asked the judge to show mercy, and offer a short sentence.

Panton himself also apologized to Linda’s family in open court.

“I’m very, very sorry,” said Panton. “I cannot say that enough. I didn’t want to hurt anybody; I was trying to stop a kid from being a punk.”

But despite having no criminal record, Panton was sentenced by the judge to the maximum – 8.5 years behind bars.

Prosecutors said there is no excuse for taking the law into your own hands – and state law doesn’t allow the use of deadly force when protecting property.

“He did intend to pull the trigger,” said Judge Timothy Ashcraft. “When you do that, you have to accept the consequences as to where that bullet ends up.”