Crime & Courts

Eagle River man pleads guilty to killing teen girlfriend

David Joseph Thomas pleaded guilty Wednesday in Anchorage to second-degree murder for strangling his teenage girlfriend, Linda Anne Martz Bower, whose parents asked the judge to reject the plea deal.

Bower's parents said they were worried about a condition of the plea deal that would make their daughter's killer eligible for parole within 14 years of a proposed prison sentence of 50 years.

"We've been very patient with the judicial system but we disagree" with the terms of the plea deal, said father Lonny Bower outside the Anchorage courtroom following the hearing.

The plea deal calls for a sentence of 75 years with 25 years suspended, and 10 years of probation, said Assistant District Attorney Christina Sherman.

Thomas' public defender Michael Schwaiger noted during the Wednesday hearing that the agreement included a requirement that the court could not restrict Thomas' discretionary parole eligibility.

Thomas, 30, originally faced two charges: first- and second-degree murder, each of which carries a sentence of up to 99 years.

Thomas was taken into custody at an Eagle River parking lot the night of Sept. 10, 2014. He called the police to surrender, according to the charging document. The body of Linda Bower, 19, was found in the back seat of Thomas' 1993 Mercedes, the charges say.

Anchorage police were first notified of the murder by Thomas' brother, who called police saying Thomas had just told him he strangled and killed Bower, according to the charges.

Thomas called police about 15 minutes later and said he wanted to turn himself in.

[Read more: Eagle River man charged with murder in girlfriend's strangling]


Standing before Anchorage Superior Court Judge Kevin Saxby in a packed courtroom, mother Sherry Miller clutched a photo of her smiling daughter. Linda's best friend took the picture at the Eagle River Nature Center, one of the girl's favorite spots to pass time, Miller said.

"It shows her tenderness, her smile, her frailness … but she had a fiery spirit," Sherry Miller said of the photo after the hearing.

Lonny Bower told the judge he and Miller did not have ample time to consider the plea deal – the family met with the state prosecutor on Nov. 15 to discuss the agreement and had about an hour to mull it over.

Stepfather Bradley Miller said the two years of pre-indictment hearings were nothing more than bantering between the parties and requests to continue the proceedings.

"It may be a good deal for the state but it's an insult to the family," Sherry Miller told Saxby.

In response to the judge's routine questions about defendant rights, Thomas responded, "Yes, sir, your honor." After Saxby accepted Thomas' guilty plea, Thomas asked to address the court.

"I know that a decision (about the plea deal) will be made months from now. Anything shy of 99 years is a great mercy on me. I do sincerely ask that you consider Linda's family's petition. They are right in the fact that Linda does not have a voice in this."

Linda Bower's parents expressed mixed emotions about the outcome of the hearing and Thomas' remarks. Sherry Miller said Thomas' statement "shocked" her, and she agreed the court should impose a 99-year sentence.

The father did not mince words regarding his thoughts on Senate Bill 91, a crime reform bill passed during this year's legislative session. Lonny Bower said the focus on criminal rehabilitation is empowering criminals to commit more heinous acts. If the criminal justice system does not refocus its efforts on punishment, violent acts will continue, he said.

He said he hopes the bill gets reversed.

"It's a shame Alaska doesn't have the death penalty," Lonny Bower said.

Sentencing was set for April 13. Anchorage Superior Court Judge Kevin Saxby did not immediately decide whether to accept or reject the plea deal.

"It will not be over if it ends bad for us," Sherry Miller said. "Justice has to prevail for her."


Jerzy Shedlock

Jerzy Shedlock is a former reporter for Alaska Dispatch News. He left the ADN in 2017.