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A former soldier who was AWOL when he killed a Kirkland woman with a butcher knife in November 2011 was sentenced Friday to 20 years in prison.

Dakota Wolf, 22, pleaded guilty earlier this month to second-degree murder with a deadly weapon for the random attack on 19-year-old Scarlett Paxton.

During his sentencing hearing in King County Superior Court, Wolf acknowledged he had caused Paxton’s family grief “past the point of no return.”

“I deserve life. No, I deserve death,” he said.

Paxton’s family members, who packed the courtroom, agreed.

The victim’s grandmother, Linda Paxton, begged Judge Julie Spector to sentence Wolf to life in prison, although state sentencing law barred her from doing so.

“Dakota is facing 20 years, but we have been given a life sentence,” Linda Paxton said.

Ernest Paxton, the victim’s father, said he had long dreamed of being alone in the room with Wolf, whom he called “a piece of garbage.” But he said he realized killing Wolf would not bring back his daughter.

According to his attorney and prosecutors, Wolf was high on the synthetic marijuana known as “Spice” at the time of the slaying.

On Nov. 18, 2011, Wolf — who had been assigned to a Stryker unit based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord — went AWOL for the sixth time, according to Army charging documents.

Ten days later, after a falling-out with his mother, Wolf called a friend’s family and asked if he could stay at their Kirkland house, according to charges. They agreed, and Wolf moved into a basement bedroom.

Around 1:30 a.m. Nov. 30, Paxton and her boyfriend left their apartment complex in Juanita for a walk. About 10 minutes into the walk, Paxton became upset with her boyfriend, took his keys and began walking home alone, according to the charges.

When the boyfriend returned to their apartment complex just before 3 a.m., he found Paxton slumped over in front of their apartment, covered in blood and dead from a knife wound to her neck, the charges say. A Cutco-brand butcher knife was found near where she collapsed.

Investigators later found bloody prints and a blood trail that began in an alley behind a nearby Albertsons supermarket and led to the apartments, charging papers say.

Hours after Paxton was found, the owners of the home where Wolf was staying contacted Lewis-McChord officials and expressed concern that Wolf — who had shown intense interest in media coverage of the slaying and visited the scene at least twice after Paxton’s death — was somehow involved, the papers say.

Military officials contacted Kirkland police, who took Wolf into custody in the basement bedroom, where investigators found bloody clothing, several Cutco knives and an empty knife sheath that matched the murder weapon, charging papers say.

DNA tests revealed Paxton’s blood was on Wolf’s clothing; her blood and Wolf’s prints were also found on a rear wall of the Albertsons; and surveillance video from a nearby business showed a male who appeared to be Wolf walking in the area at the time Paxton was killed, the papers say.

Wolf was originally charged with first-degree murder, but prosecutors agreed to let him plead guilty to second-degree murder in part because prosecutors were not sure they could prove the killing was premeditated, King County prosecutor spokesman Dan Donohoe has said.

Wolf received a bad-conduct discharge from the Army.

Christine Clarridge: 206-464-8983 or

Seattle Times news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this report, which includes information from Times archives.