Murderer Brent Luyster receives consecutive life sentences

Sentencing proceeds after judge denies new trial

By Jessica Prokop, Columbian Courts Reporter

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Breanne Leigh turned to Brent Luyster — the man who killed her significant other and shot her in the face, leaving her for dead — and held up photos of her young daughters.

“I should not be the one looking them in their face and telling them why their dad is not here. That should be your job. How could you take their dad, Brent? Why did you take their dad from them? I want to know why, why execution style, kill the people you call your friends and family?” Leigh said through tears at Luyster’s sentencing Friday afternoon.

“You’re so ridiculously selfish,” she added. “You know what you did. You choose not to own up to it, though, and hurt everybody as much as you can. Everyone you ever come in contact with you damage, you hurt, you ruin, you wreck — everything.”

Luyster appeared to show little reaction as Leigh read her statement. But he furrowed his brow as the judge sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of release, bringing the saga of one of Clark County’s most notorious murder cases to an end.

Superior Court Judge Robert Lewis sentenced Luyster to three life sentences without possibility of parole on three counts of first-degree aggravated murder, 471 months on attempted first-degree murder, 116 months on first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm and 60 months on second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm, all to run consecutively.

A jury found him guilty on all counts last month.

Luyster fatally shot his best friend Zachary David Thompson, 36; friend Joseph Mark LaMar, 38; and LaMar’s partner, Janell Renee Knight, 43, on July 15, 2016, at LaMar’s home southeast of Woodland. Thompson’s partner, Leigh, then 32, was wounded but lived to testify against Luyster.

He maintains his innocence, however.

“I hear everybody asking, ‘Why did this happen? How could you do something like this?’ I don’t know how I was convicted of this,” Luyster told the court.

He argued that prosecutors didn’t produce any compelling motive for the murders, and Leigh’s statements about him being the shooter — which he said were taken by former Clark County sheriff’s Detective Kevin Harper, who resigned in February following allegations of misconduct — were all they had. No one saw him shoot anyone, he said.

“There was no blood, or DNA or gun powder or murder weapon or motive,” Luyster said.

“The family of the victims have every right to believe it was me, because that’s what the state is telling them. But it’s simply not the case,” he said. “Zach and Joe were good men. They were excellent fathers. And they loved their family and friends. On the other side of the coin, and I say this without trying to take anything away from them or diminish what happened to them, they were hard men, and they were men of violence. They had a lot of enemies. They were felons, just like I.”

Luyster has filed a notice of appeal.

Earlier in the hearing, the defense moved for Luyster to receive a new trial based on a juror who was allegedly unduly influenced when, at the end of Luyster’s trial, he shaved his head and revealed Nazi tattoos on his scalp.

Lewis said it’s not clear to him that a defendant’s appearance in open court is basis for a new trial. And in this particular circumstance, the juror reportedly said what he saw and how it factored into his decision. Lewis said that is exactly the sort of thing the Supreme Court says not to inquire into, and he ordered the sentencing to proceed.

Family members and friends of Luyster’s victims testified in an emotional hearing that lasted about 30 minutes.

The sister of LaMar, Abia Nunn, showed photos of her brother to the court and gallery.

“Everybody had seen my family dead. I want the court to see my brother as he was alive — beautiful, happy and alive — nothing like what was shown in the courtroom,” she said.

“Words cannot express the pain and anguish our family and friends have endured since their murders. The defendant’s decision to take the life of a human being with no regard to the effects it may have on others is unimaginable,” Nunn said, later adding, “This man, this evil man has no compassion for human life nor does he blink an eye when taking one.”

She asked the judge to show no leniency or mercy, because Luyster showed none to his victims.

LaMar’s mother, Danette Anderson, told Luyster there is a special place in Hell for him.

Victim advocate Mary Todd also read statements on behalf of Thompson’s sister and mother.

Both described him as a happy and loving person. They said he had some problems in life, but he was finally getting his life on track for his family.

Nunn said after the hearing that she is happy about the outcome of the case.

“We’re done this time. There is no coming back,” she told media. “We never have to see him again.”

Deputy Prosecutor James Smith said in a phone interview after the hearing that the prosecution is “pleased with the outcome.”

“We didn’t believe there was any basis for a new trial, and we are glad the victims were able to see justice from the court handing down the sentence,” he said.

Efforts to reach Luyster’s counsel, Chuck Buckley and Steve Rucker, after the hearing were unsuccessful.