Rebecca Goodwin looked at the young man standing next to her yesterday in King County Superior Court in Seattle and said she saw evil. Nicholas Burham killed her friend Emily Jacobson...

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Rebecca Goodwin looked at the young man standing next to her yesterday in King County Superior Court in Seattle and said she saw evil. Nicholas Burham killed her friend Emily Jacobson, she told a judge, so he belongs in prison for a long time.

In March, Burham, 20, strangled Jacobson, his 20-year-old girlfriend, in their Kirkland apartment, because she wanted to break up. Now he was before the judge for sentencing.

But in the same courtroom, Jean Burham stared at the same man, her son, and said she saw a good person who had made a horrible mistake.

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“I ask the court to temper justice with compassion … ,” she said. “His behavior was an absolute aberration.”

Judge Richard Jones then sentenced Burham to 16 years in prison for second-degree murder, just four months less than prosecutors had requested. He faced between 10 and 18 years under state guidelines.

A “dangerous combination of emotions” — including fear, panic and rejection — caused Burham to grab Jacobson’s neck, the judge said. “It can create a monster you never knew existed.”

Burham’s actions affected scores of people, including a father who will never be able to give Jacobson away at her wedding, or parents who will never see Jacobson’s children, Jones said.

“It wasn’t a life of yours to give or take,” the judge told Burham.

Still, Goodwin said Burham’s punishment would be too lenient, saying Burham is “an evil boy that will get out of jail in a matter of years.” According to prosecutors, Jacobson had told Burham she wanted to break off their relationship a week before the March 19 murder. Burham later told police he “just lost it,” grabbed Jacobson’s neck, and then panicked when her body went limp.

Burham tried to commit suicide by cutting himself with a knife, then crashing his car on Highway 520 and stabbing himself in the abdomen, court documents say.

Deputy Prosecutor Hugh Barber said many murder victims make poor choices that contribute to their fate, but not Jacobson.

“Emily Jacobson simply followed her heart,” Barber told the judge. “She simply decided this was not the man for her.”

In addition to Burham’s mother, his former boss and a former teacher spoke on his behalf. But when asked by the judge whether he had anything say, Burham declined.

Ashley Bach: 206-464-2567 or abach@seattletimes.com