A King County jury has convicted a 32-year-old Seattle man of first-degree murder for the August 2012 drive-by shooting that claimed the life of wine steward Yancy Noll as he drove home from his job at a supermarket.
In finding Thomasdinh “Dinh” Bowman guilty, jurors agreed with prosecutors that the murder was premeditated. Bowman admitted to the shooting during his testimony, but claimed it was an act of self-defense after he became embroiled in a road-rage incident with Noll on Interstate 5.
Bowman appeared stunned when the verdict was read and wiped away tears. Noll’s family and friends cried, with one repeatedly mouthing the words, “thank you.”
Bowman faces 25 to 31 years in prison when he is sentenced. A sentencing date has not been set. Defense attorney John Henry Browne said he plans to appeal.
Jurors had been deliberating since Wednesday morning.
Prosecutors told the Superior Court jury that Bowman fatally shot Noll because he wanted to know what it was like to kill someone, and had downloaded books and other materials on homicide before the shooting.
During the trial’s opening statements on Nov. 19, King County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Adrienne McCoy called Bowman a “student of murder” who had carefully studied how to kill someone in the months before the deadly encounter. McCoy said that for Bowman, Noll’s killing “was the fulfillment of a quest — a quest to know what it would be like to kill someone. And now he knows.”
McCoy called Bowman a “skilled marksman” who fired five rounds from a 9-mm Glock handgun through the window of his BMW convertible, striking Noll four times in the head. McCoy said Bowman went to great lengths to hide and change the appearance of his car after the shooting.
During the two days he spent on the witness stand, Bowman claimed he was in fear for his life, saying Noll chased his convertible and chucked bottles at Bowman in a road-rage incident that started on Interstate 5. Bowman testified that he reached for his handgun after seeing Noll rummage around on the passenger side of his car, presumably in search of a weapon.
He told jurors he wanted to go to police but feared they wouldn’t believe his story.
Noll died in his car at 15th Avenue Northeast and Northeast 75th Street in the Roosevelt neighborhood, just 15 minutes after leaving work at a QFC store on Capitol Hill where he was a wine steward.
Browne, the defense attorney, told jurors the state was responsible for both disproving Bowman’s self-defense claim and proving premeditation. He said if Bowman really was a “student of murder,” as the state alleged, then Bowman didn’t do a good job of putting what he learned into practice since the killing was done in daylight, during rush-hour traffic and while Bowman was driving a conspicuous sports car.
After the verdict was announced, juror David Smith said he wasn’t convinced that Bowman had planned to indiscriminately kill someone, but felt there was some premeditation involved in Noll’s death. Smith, 26, a financial analyst from Seattle, said he believed there were some elements of truth to Bowman’s story, but that it was obviously embellished.
He said jurors had arrived at the verdict on Wednesday, but they wanted to sleep on it.
Bowman was once considered somewhat of a child prodigy. He was featured in a May 1996 Seattle Times story when at age 13 he was nationally ranked in fencing and taking computer-science courses at Seattle Pacific University, maintaining a B average.