Startup man sentenced to 25 years for killing grandmother’s friend

Tristan Trinh’s grandmother had asked Roy Ashmore, 39, for help while she filed a no-contact order against her grandson.

Roy Ashmore (Family photo)

Roy Ashmore (Family photo)

STARTUP — A Startup man was sentenced to 25 years in prison for shooting and killing Roy Ashmore, who was trying to protect the man’s grandmother while she filed a restraining order against her grandson.

After a trial that lasted 10 days, a jury found Tristan Trinh, 25, guilty of first-degree murder on Feb. 2. Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Marybeth Dingledy sentenced Trinh last week.

In the days preceding the murder, Trinh’s grandmother became frightened of him, describing his behavior as “shocking” and “aggressive,” according to court documents. She contacted police multiple times to arrange an involuntary psychiatric hospitalization for Trinh. In each instance, police “found no grounds to detain Tristan as a danger to himself or others,” according to court papers.

On the night of Aug. 5, 2022, the grandmother called 911 to report Trinh exposed himself to her, according to court documents. He was living with her at Haystack Antiques, the store she owned, in the 36700 block of U.S. 2. He helped out at the business.

The next day, Trinh exposed himself to her again, and she told him to leave the property, according to court papers. Half an hour later, she had Ashmore come over to stay with her as she filled out a no-contact order online against Trinh. Ashmore, 39, arrived with his 10-year-old son.

Trinh confronted him at the door, prosecutors wrote. Trinh tried to stop him from going inside, and the two fought.

The two ended up in the antique store parking lot. Trinh was standing next to a dumpster and Ashmore approached him to ask him to leave, court documents said.

A neighbor’s security camera recorded the incident. Trinh pulled out a gun and pointed it at Ashmore, who turned around and walked away, according to court papers.

A few seconds later, Trinh took a step forward and shot Ashmore five times while he walked away, prosecutors wrote. Ashmore fell to the ground. Trinh ran over to Ashmore and reportedly shot him in the head.

Ashmore’s son watched as his father was shot to death, according to court documents.

“I had to kill him,” Trinh reportedly told investigators as he was arrested.

Trinh had no previous criminal history. Prosecutors wrote in court documents that Trinh’s background was “relatively unremarkable.” He was educated, had semi-stable housing and worked in coffee shops and grocery stores.

Under state sentencing guidelines, Trinh faced 20 to 26⅔ years in prison.

The defense recommended a sentence of 13½ years, far below that range, arguing Trinh’s family had a long history of mental illness — including his brother who was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Trinh’s behavior reportedly started to change in 2017. He had threatened to stab himself while around his grandmother, he claimed his brother was controlling his mind, and there was a general increase in “aggression, impulsivity, mood shifts and paranoia,” according to a mental health evaluation. In September 2018, a medical facility in Utah diagnosed Trinh with schizophrenia.

During the trial, Trinh testified he was “suplexed” onto the ground and placed in a chokehold. The defendant also claimed Ashmore had a gun, prosecutors wrote. The jury didn’t believe his version of events.

In letters submitted to the judge, Ashmore’s friends described him as a proud dad who “loved his son more than words can express.”

“I have dreams where Roy still visits,” Jayne Kingsley Morse wrote. “I look forward to those dreams because they seem so real.”

Jonathan Tall: 425-339-3486; jonathan.tall@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @snocojon.

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