EVERETT — Andrew Spencer’s 10-year-old daughter wrote her father’s killer a letter.
“I want to know why you had to kill my dad,” the girl wrote.
It doesn’t make sense to a 10-year-old. Spencer’s murder also didn’t make sense to a Snohomish County Superior Court judge Thursday.
“Mr. Spencer did not deserve to die,” Judge George Appel said.
The judge sentenced George Hatt Jr. to nearly 36 years in prison for the 2015 killing. Hatt’s cold and cruel actions earned him the maximum sentence allowed by law, Appel said.
It could be a life sentence for 51-year-old Hatt.
The Granite Falls man apologized to Spencer’s family. His attorney had instructed Hatt not to say much more, pending an appeal.
Public defender Jason Schwarz argued that his client deserved leniency. He had a criminal record but he didn’t have a history of violence. “He was not a man wandering around with a gun, looking for someone to kill,” Schwarz said.
The defense had argued at trial that Hatt shot Spencer in self-defense and in defense of a man Spencer had punched. Schwarz resurrected that argument Thursday, asking the judge to consider the failed self-defense claim as grounds for a shorter sentence than the standard range for the crime. He asked Appel to send his client to prison for a decade. In making his case, Schwarz pointed to the slain man’s criminal convictions, saying he had a history of violence.
The victim is not on trial, Appel countered.
“In murdering him … (Hatt) demonstrated no remorse but rather an indifference to human life,” the judge said.
A Snohomish County jury in May convicted Hatt of first-degree murder with a firearm. He also was found guilty of two firearms charges and tampering with physical evidence.
Snohomish County prosecutor Hal Hupp pushed for the 36-year sentence.
“It’s based on the months and months the defendant planned and spoke about his plan to kill Andrew Spencer, and it is based on the defendant’s horrific behavior after the murder, ” Hupp wrote.
Spencer, 31, was missing for more than a week before his remains were discovered in a fire pit on the Granite Falls property where Hatt was staying with his girlfriend.
Investigators were told that Hatt buried the man in the pit after shooting him in early November 2015. Jurors heard that Hatt kept a fire burning for several days and dumped chemicals into the makeshift grave.
A man who helped hide the body eventually led detectives to the pit, saying the shooting happened after Spencer assaulted him. Hatt, he said, fired two rounds. Spencer was shot in the head.
Hupp alleged that Hatt killed Spencer in retaliation for a burglary. His house was broken into, guitars and jewelry were taken and he blamed Spencer. He told several people he was out to get the suspected burglar. Spencer’s girlfriend testified that on one occasion Hatt was holding a gun when he asked where he could find Spencer.
Hatt testified for hours, denying he planned the killing.
Spencer’s family packed the courtroom Thursday. His stepmom, Stacy Spencer, told the judge the killing has devastated their family.
“He was very loved by us,” she said.
Andrew Spencer had three children, ages 7 to 16. He also is survived by his parents and siblings.
His family has nightmares about how the defendant treated Spencer like a piece of garbage, throwing him away in that pit, his stepmom said.
He mattered to his family, she said. “I want his life to matter. I want his life to matter to you today.”
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; firstname.lastname@example.org.