The man accused of fatally stabbing another man near Yelm in September 2015 will serve 20 years in prison as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors.
Tony A. Bolton, 53, pleaded guilty earlier this month to second-degree manslaughter and second-degree assault in the death of Ross Yardley. He was sentenced Wednesday in Thurston County Superior Court.
According to court documents, Yardley’s girlfriend, Linda Riccetti, told investigators Yardley allowed Bolton to stay on his property near Yelm. On the day of the stabbing, Riccetti told Yardley she wanted Bolton to leave the property; Yardley left the room, she thought, to talk to Bolton.
Minutes later, she said, she saw Yardley holding his chest and heard him say “Tony stabbed me,” according to court documents.
She called 911. When sheriff’s deputies arrived at the home, they found Yardley unresponsive on the front porch and Bolton lying in the grass near the home.
Prosecutors previously said if convicted, Bolton could face life in prison under the state’s three-strikes law. Under the sentencing agreement, they agreed to treat this as his second strike, not his third, since there was a chance one of his convictions for a crime he committed as a juvenile could be thrown out, said Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Heather Stone.
However, Bolton will serve 10 years for each count back to back, not concurrently.
In court Wednesday, Bolton denied he killed Yardley. He told Judge Christine Schaller the two met in prison, that they were friends, and that he had no reason to kill Yardley.
“I’ve done a lot of things in my life, and I’ve faced up to a lot of things,” Bolton told the judge. “I’m not a stupid people, I’m not going to gamble with my life, but I know for a fact I did not break the law that day.”
Schaller approved the sentencing agreement. State law says a court can impose a so-called exceptional sentence if it finds “substantial and compelling reasons” to do so. In this case, the sentence is exceptional because 10 years is more than the standard sentencing range for the assault charge based on Bolton’s criminal history, and because the sentences will be served back to back.
Bolton was scheduled to go to trial this month. The case was delayed last year after he filed an affidavit of prejudice regarding another judge assigned to the case who previously worked for the Thurston County Prosecutor's Office.