A Spokane County courtroom erupted in cheers Thursday when Danial Peters was sentenced for a murder he can’t remember - but doesn’t deny - committing.
More than 30 friends and relatives of Melissa Wageman, who was beaten to death with a metal pipe last year, urged a judge to consider “the brutal nature” of Peters’ crime.
They clapped and shouted “Yes!” when Superior Court Judge James Murphy responded with a 17-year sentence for Peters.
“It was the most we could ask for,” said Wageman’s brother, Jerry Many. “I’m glad he got the max. He deserved it and more.”
Peters, 22, pleaded guilty earlier this month to second-degree murder.
He said he drank four to six pitchers of beer on Dec. 22 before leaving the Happy Time Tavern with Wageman, who worked there.
They went to the house on East Glass where Peters lived and smoked crack cocaine and marijuana. Peters said he does not remember killing Wageman, but woke up to find her bloody body nearby.
Homeowner Robert Katke, 65, told police he helped Peters load the woman’s body into the back of his truck because he was afraid of Peters, but reported the rig stolen as soon as Peters drove away.
Katke, who has AIDS, let Peters live with him rent-free because the younger man took care of him.
Peters’ defense attorney, Kevin Curtis, said his client’s rough start in an abusive family with seven siblings led to a “chaotic and unproductive life.” By the time he was 9, Peters was living alone on the streets.
He went through more than eight foster homes, was an alcoholic by his 10th birthday and never made it through middle school, Curtis said.
In a statement read by his attorney, Peters apologized to Wageman’s family and told the judge he still doesn’t understand “what went wrong” the night she was killed.
“I wish I could replace Melissa’s death with the life of my own,” Peters wrote.
Judge Murphy urged Peters to seek treatment for his drug and alcohol addictions while in prison.
“The day’s going to come when you’re going to have to live with your addiction on the outside,” Murphy told Peters, who nodded silently. “Your life hasn’t been an easy one, but it doesn’t excuse what happened to Melissa Wageman.”