Sitting in Whatcom County Superior Court Thursday morning, Dec. 9, Daniel Edward Johnson faced the consequences of his brutally violent actions - a photo of the mother and her infant son he murdered.
Johnson, 29, pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree murder for beating Laura McQueen, 24, and 1-year-old Dominic Blackburn to death inside their Ferndale apartment on March 4, 2009.
Judge Ira Uhrig sentenced him to a little more than 41 years in state prison, the maximum sentence allowable under state law.
Before the hearing, which McQueen's family and friends attended, a picture of her and Dominic was propped up to face Johnson as he sat awaiting his sentence.
Never miss a local story.
"She was our princess," said her mother, Carol Patterson. "She would light up the room with her smiles. Our hearts were shattered and it brought us to our knees. I will never hear her say, 'Momma I love you.' This will affect our family for many generations to come."
Johnson was McQueen's boyfriend and was living with her in a two-bedroom apartment in the 6100 block of Portal Way. He is not Dominic's father.
A day before he murdered her and Dominic, a friend overheard them arguing at the apartment, according to charging documents filed in Superior Court. McQueen had talked about breaking up with Johnson, who had broken furniture in past fits of drunken rage.
The night of March 3, McQueen and Johnson went to a neighbor's place and drank alcohol before returning to the apartment and going to sleep.
McQueen's roommate returned from work at about 4:30 a.m. March 4 and saw Johnson standing at the kitchen sink washing his hands.At 5:50 a.m., Johnson called 911 from a pay phone down the street from the apartment to turn himself in on a warrant for a pending methamphetamine-possession charge.
McQueen and Dominic were found dead at about 9 a.m. Blood covered the room; Whatcom County Medical Examiner Gary Goldfogel determined they died of blows to their heads, faces and necks.
Johnson was charged with the murders in January while he was incarcerated and serving a prison sentence for the meth charge.
Standing before McQueen's friends and family on Thursday, Johnson apologized and said he took responsibility for his crimes.
"I'm not going to stand here and make any excuses about my actions," Johnson said. "One of the hardest things in the world would be for you to forgive me and I won't ask you to do that. I want everyone to know that I'm truly sorry."
In sentencing Johnson, Uhrig advised McQueen's family to focus on their positive memories of her and Dominic's lives.
He then addressed Johnson.
"It would be bad enough if we were talking about one life, but we're talking about two and that's almost unfathomable," Uhrig said.
"Some of those most affected may choose to forgive you, Mr. Johnson. That's their individual choice. It would be far better if they forget about you."