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Evergreen killer given 35 years for mitigated deliberate homicide

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Sep. 23—Flathead County District Court Judge Robert Allison sentenced Tanner Doyle White to 35 years in Montana State Prison on Thursday for the Jan. 17 shooting death of 42-year-old Luke Simpson in Evergreen.

Noting his displeasure with aspects of the plea agreement reached between White’s attorneys and prosecutors, Allison gave the 22-year-old credit for 244 days of time served and allowed his prison stint to run concurrent with previous sentences out of Glacier County. Among other criticisms, Allison took issue with crediting White for his stint in county jail, highlighting instances of poor conduct while in the detention center.

Deputy County Attorney John Donovan noted that, as part of the plea deal, his office had opted against pursuing assault charges stemming from one of those incidents.

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“It’s probably one of the worst I’ve ever seen,” Allison said of White’s behavior prior to handing down the sentence.

He urged White to comport himself better while in state prison.

“If you get to the prison and you were to behave like that there … I can guarantee you that you won’t get parole in seven or eight years,” Allison said.

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White, who pleaded guilty to mitigated deliberate homicide in July, apologized to the court for his role in Simpson’s slaying and later acknowledged his poor performance in county jail. White was arrested several days after Simpson’s death during a traffic stop initiated by Columbia Falls Police officers. Prior to White’s arrest, Flathead County Sheriff Brian Heino said that the investigation had uncovered several vehicles of interest, one of which was connected to White.

White allegedly later admitted to shooting Simpson, telling investigators his fiancee had gone out on a date with Simpson prior to the deadly confrontation, according to court documents. After following Simpson to his home on Flathead Drive, White shot him with a 9 mm handgun, court documents said.

Authorities recovered shell casings from a 9 mm gun in the home’s driveway, according to court documents.

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Attorney Sean Hinchey, a member of White’s defense team, told the court that his client “was concerned for the welfare of his fiancee.” In his statement to the court, White echoed Hinchey’s assessment, but acknowledged his actions were unjustified.

“I think about it every day,” White said. “I can’t change the past, but I can move forward.”

He said he previously complained about a perceived increase in crime in Flathead County. He was “embarrassed” to now be a part of it, he said.

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Whatever White’s reasoning, he committed a violent crime, Donovan said while recommending the 35-year sentence. He pointed out that White was barred from possessing firearms at the time of the shooting owing to previous crimes.

“This violent history needs a sentence that … protects society from Mr. White,” he said.

Allison took particular umbrage with White’s possession and use of firearms while out on parole. Convicted felons wielding firearms to commit new crimes put gun owners everywhere at risk, the judge said.

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“Then all the politicians want to punish law-abiding people who have guns because of the stuff you guys do,” Allison said. “You’re not just hurting yourself or Simpson or his family … you mess things up for people who come after you or people who have not committed crimes at all.”

News Editor Derrick Perkins can be reached at 758-4430 or [email protected].

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