EVERETT — A teenage boy accused of shooting and killing a 17-year-old Edmonds girl in November 2018 likely will be out of prison in his 20s.
“I anticipate as I give my ruling in this case, there’s probably not going to be any person in this courtroom that’s going to agree with my decision in this case,” Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Bruce Weiss said to a room filled with friends and family.
He sentenced Timothy Puller, 17, to nearly 10 years in prison, which falls below state guidelines, as well as 10 years of probation. Puller also will have to pay more than $6,000 in restitution to the family.
In determining the sentence, Weiss said he took into consideration Puller’s youth, mental health and lack of criminal history.
“He certainly did not want to kill his friend, it was clearly an act of stupidity and youthfulness,” Weiss said during the Thursday court hearing. “… He certainly did not want to kill his friend.”
Puller pleaded guilty in August to first-degree manslaughter in the death of Gala Zuehlke, an Edmonds-Woodway High School senior.
On Nov. 30, 2018, Puller found a .44-caliber revolver in a dresser at a friend’s apartment. He reportedly told detectives that he wanted it because it looked powerful.
Later, he took the gun to Zuehlke’s apartment to show her and her friend the revolver.
“Yo, look at what I got,” he said. He then pointed the gun at objects around the room, according to court papers.
He aimed the gun at Zuehlke’s friend and pulled the trigger, he told detectives. The gun clicked, moving the bullet closer to the chamber. The girls protested, and told him to unload the gun. He assured them nothing would happen.
Then he aimed the gun at Zuehlke. He pulled the trigger and shot her in the face.
The county medical examiner determined that the shooter must have stood 1 to 3 feet away from the girl, based on details at the scene.
Afterward, Puller went into hiding, and reportedly made plans to leave the state. Detectives arrested him at a friend’s house.
At a previous hearing, defense attorney John Hicks argued that Puller didn’t understand the danger the gun presented. The defendant had undiagnosed ADHD and was acting impulsively, Hicks said.
Deputy prosecutor Robert Grant, who asked that Puller be sentenced to 13 years and 5 months in prison, disagreed.
“This wasn’t an impulse decision,” Grant said. “It wasn’t impulsive when he made sure the gun was loaded. It wasn’t impulsive when he walked down to Gala’s place. And it wasn’t impulsive when he started pulling the trigger, despite being told by Hanna and Gala to stop.”
“He knew before pulling that trigger, firing that bullet, there was some danger to it,” Grant said.
Family said Zuehlke was a kind, trusting person who was “literally on the cusp of the life that she dreamed of.” An obituary described her as a “creative and caring person” who loved art and wanted to become a teacher. She had plans to attend Skagit Valley College.
Without a trial, her mother Amanda Intveld said the one question that has consumed her will not be answered.
“Did he know there was a bullet in the chamber when he fired the gun?” she said.