A 23-year-old Columbia Falls man convicted of fatally shooting a 42-year-old man in Evergreen last January has been sentenced to 35 years in the Montana State Prison after pleading guilty this summer to a felony count of mitigated deliberate homicide.
Tanner Doyle White entered a plea deal in July after the charge was amended from deliberate homicide.
According to the amended charge filed by Flathead Deputy County Attorney John Donovan, White “purposely or knowingly caused the death of another human being but did so under the influence of extreme mental or emotional stress for which there is reasonable explanation or excuse.”
On Sept. 22, Judge Robert B. Allison presided over the sentencing hearing in Flathead County District Court, where he accepted the state’s recommendation of 35 years.
“The court will follow the plea agreement,” Allison said. “There are aspects of it that I don’t like but I will follow it and I will sentence the defendant to the state prison for 35 years with none of that suspended.”
Donovan cited White’s criminal history during the hearing to support the sentencing recommendation, which includes a dismissed charge of assault on a peace officer in 2019 and a separate charge in Glacier County. The defendant was on parole at the time of the homicide, he possessed firearms and allegedly assaulted jail staff following his arrest, he said.
“(As) part of this plea agreement the state has agreed not to proceed with the offense of Mr. White causing pain to a jail staff while he was in custody,” Donovan said. “Assault on a peace officer is not going to get prosecuted and we have numerous accounts of Mr. White being violent and combative in custody.”
During the hearing, Judge Allison expressed concern about White’s behavior while in the Flathead County Detention Center and warned him that he will likely not become eligible for parole if he continues to act violent while in custody.
“When I read through this pre-sentencing report, one of the things that concerned me the most is how you did while you were in the detention center, which was probably one of the worst I had ever seen,” Judge Allison said.
White’s defense attorney, Sean Hinchey, told the court that White felt that his actions were justifiable at the time of the shooting because he believed his fiancé, who was with the victim, was in danger.
“While it may not have risen to the level of justifiable use of force, he was concerned for the welfare of his fiancé,” Hinchey said.
According to charging documents, sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to 125 Flathead Drive on Jan. 17 for a report of gunshots fired where they found the victim, who authorities later identified as 42-year-old Luke Simpson, of Columbia Falls. White was not at the scene, but authorities spoke with a neighbor who heard eight to nine gunshots that “sounded like fireworks.”
Flathead County law enforcement arrested White at a traffic stop almost a week later, on Jan. 23, in Columbia Falls, after an investigation linked him and his vehicle to the crime.
White admitted to detectives that on Jan. 17 he followed Simpson to the scene of the murder on Flathead Drive and shot him with a handgun before leaving in a vehicle with his fiancé.
White testified at the sentencing hearing, telling the court that he takes responsibility for his actions.
“On January 17, I shot Luke Simpson under circumstances at the time that I felt were justified and I take responsibility for that, and I took another life and it’s a tragic event for both families,” White said.
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