By JENNIFER SINCO KELLEHER
HONOLULU — A judge on Wednesday sentenced a freeway shooter to three consecutive life terms in prison after saying he deserved harsh punishment for turning Honolulu highways into “killing zones.”
Toby Stangel, 30, was sentenced after being convicted of the murder of Tammy Nguyen, a mother of 10 children, and the attempted murders of two other motorists.
Circuit Court Judge Glenn Kim said Stangel fired at a driver at a Honolulu intersection on June 3, 2011, then shot and killed Nguyen, who was behind the wheel of a minivan, as her 16-year-old daughter watched.
Stangel then shot and injured two motorists on the H-1 Freeway, kept driving and shot at two officers who were ticketing racing drivers. Before issuing the sentence, Kim said Stangel severely abused drugs for more than half his life and illegally carried a handgun for years, turning him into a “lethal time bomb” that went on a rampage.
“That night, my mind was telling me my life was in jeopardy,” Stangel said in court.
Stangel suffered mental issues for most of his adult life and was hearing voices in his head, defense attorney John Schum told the judge.
“He often used drugs to combat that, to quiet the voices,” the lawyer said. “The voices told him it was either kill or be killed.”
Schum, along with Stangel’s parents, asked the judge for mercy, to give hope that Stangel could get out of prison someday.
Stangel apologized to Nguyen’s family, who sat in the courtroom sobbing, and insisted he is a changed a man. The son of a pastor, Stangel said he’s now “living for Jesus Christ.”
“I’m trying to be a good role model for others,” he said. “I’m not saying I’m perfect now but I’m trying my best.”
His mother, Karen Stangel, said she grieves for the Nguyen family. “I try to imagine how I would react if someone killed my husband,” she said.
As an example of how her son has changed, she said he offered to give his paycheck from working custodian and laundry jobs in jail to his cell mate who didn’t have anyone willing to provide him with money. She said his request was denied.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Dwight Nadamoto said the sentence brings closure for the Nguyen family, who declined to speak in court.
Because of mandatory minimum terms, it will be at least 60 years before Stangel could be eligible for parole.
Jurors in May found Stangel guilty of second-degree murder and other charges. They also said he was not guilty of one count of first-degree attempted murder, which would have carried a mandatory life sentence without the possibility for parole.
The jury was then asked to consider whether Stangel should receive an extended term of life without parole, but jurors couldn’t agree.
In court, Judge Kim granted the prosecution’s request that the three life terms be served concurrently.