This was updated at 3:23 p.m. and 7:22 p.m.
By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
CHEHALIS – Convicted triple murderer John Booth Jr. turned toward the packed courtroom benches this morning after he was sentenced to life in prison and loudly, clearly stated: “Fuck you.”
It wasn’t clear who he was specifically addressing, but he had just listened to victims and their families for some 20 minutes tell the court he was a loser who should never again see the light of day.
Because Booth’s conviction yesterday gave him a “third strike”, the mandatory sentence he got today was life in prison with no chance for release.
Lewis County Superior Court Judge Richard Brosey told the courtroom the slayings were among the most gruesome in modern Lewis County history.
“Your conduct was vicious,” Brosey said.
“If there’s a case that justifies the death penalty in Lewis County, this would have been it,” the judge said.
Three jail guards sat directly behind Booth, with at least two more in the room along with a large number of sheriff’s deputies.
The 32-year-old former Onalaskan was found guilty by a jury yesterday on all counts: first-degree murder for the deaths of 16-year-old David “D.J.” West Jr. and 50-year-old Tony Williams of Randle. He was also convicted of second-degree murder for David West Sr., 52, and the attempted murder of Denise R. Salts, 52, as well as attempted extortion and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Booth denied even being present when the four were shot in their heads, but the jury took less than two hours to make its decision.
Two people who survived the events of Aug. 21, 2010 inside the Salkum-Onalaska area home addressed the court before Booth was sentenced.
John Lindberg held a blue bandana-handkerchief in his hand as he came forward to speak.
He thanked the offices of the sheriff and prosecutor and apologized to the court for the profanity he repeated when he testified.
“I’d just like to say to Mr. Booth, thank you for not killing me,” Lindberg said.
The 59-year-old plumber hid in a back room in the house during the shootings.
Lindberg shared the prayer he says every morning and night: “I pray he should never see the light of day again,” he said. “For as long as you are on God’s green earth.”
Denise Salts sat with a victim’s advocate who read her statement.
Salts had written it’s her turn to smile, “you’re the loser now.”
“There’s an angry part of me that wants to curse, swear and yell at you,” the advocate read. But then she thinks of Dave, D.J. and Tony, she said.
Tony William’s brother’s girlfriend, who did not give her name, said she believed Williams laid down his life for a friend that night. She spoke of the man, whose 13-year-old son and brother sat in the audience listening.
“Tony was our brother and best friend and some killer took him away from his family,” she said.
Jessica Porter conveyed her anger directly to the defendant, in an exchange not everyone in the courtroom could hear but continued until the judge asked her to address him.
“You took my brother, my dad, and you still sit here smirking and smiling,” Porter said to Booth. “And what did you get out of that? Nothing.”
David “D.J.” West Jr.’s mother, Jodi Porter, spoke just a few words.
“Life in prison is too good for you,” she said. “Not that it matters to you, but you will meet your maker.”
Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher and Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead had argued to jurors Booth and his former cell mate Ryan McCarthy visited the Wings Way house because they were “taxing” West Sr. on behalf of Lewis County drug dealer Robbie Russell.
The prosecutors contended when West Sr. brought out a shotgun to get them to leave, Booth shot him with a 9 mm handgun. The shootings that followed were executions to eliminate witnesses, prosecutors argued.
Meagher gave his sentencing recommendation to the judge.
“I guess as we say, strike one, strike two and, my gosh, strike three, four, five and six,” Meagher said. “This man needs to be sent to prison without the possibility of release.”
Port Orchard-based defense attorney Roger Hunko agreed the life without parole was the sentence the judge would impose.
When Judge Brosey gave Booth his opportunity to speak, Booth just said: “How about some probation?”
“For what,” the judge asked.
“Probably for when you kick me loose,” Booth replied.
The judge moved on.
When the judge imposed the sentence, he told Booth he didn’t think anyone in the courtroom, with the exception of Booth, believed a word of his testimony.
Brosey called Booth’s actions senseless.
He told Booth he could expect his first year in Walla Walla at the state penitentiary to be locked up alone in a cell the size of the judge’s bench and then remain in prison for the rest of his life.
That’s what you deserve, Brosey said.
Booth refused to sign his judgement and sentence document.
The judge held Booth in contempt and threatened to take away his credit for 478 days he’s already served. Brosey also suggested guards should help him affix his fingerprints to the document down in the jail instead of in the courtroom.
When the judge was finished, Booth asked: “Do I get to say anything?”
“You’ve said all you’re gonna say,” Brosey said.
By then, a line of seven law enforcement officers had filled the aisle in between the rows of courtroom benches.
That’s when Booth turned to the audience and made his final statement: “F*** you.”
The outburst elicited at least one “Rot in hell” and several other remarks to the defendant.
Hunko filed a notice of appeal.