Share story

Thomasdinh “Dinh” Bowman showed an “extreme lack of empathy” for the motorist he randomly gunned down at a North Seattle intersection in August 2012, King County Superior Court Judge Bruce Heller said Friday before sending him to prison for 29 years.

Bowman, 32, said during his December trial that he shot Yancy Noll in self-defense, claiming the popular wine steward initiated a road-rage incident and threw bottles at Bowman’s head. The jury deliberated for a little more than a day before convicting Bowman of first-degree murder.

“The jury rejected it, as do I,” Heller said of Bowman’s self-defense claim. “Yancy Noll had his hands on the steering wheel when he was shot three times in the head.”

Bowman went out for dinner with his wife immediately after the shooting, then house hunted with a friend two days later — actions, the judge said, that were completely inconsistent with someone who had just survived a violent attack.

“Smart people, especially really smart people, don’t throw away the one piece of evidence” that could corroborate their version of events, Heller said, referring to Bowman’s testimony that he threw away the bottles he claimed Noll had thrown at him.

Bowman didn’t think the police would believe him because “he was the bad guy and he knew it,” Heller said.

The state had asked Heller to sentence Bowman to a maximum sentence of 31 years in prison, while the defense asked for a low-end sentence of 25 years.

Throughout much of the nearly 90-minute-long hearing, Bowman cried silently with his eyes squeezed shut and his shoulders hunched — a sharp contrast to his confident, almost-cocky demeanor during his two-week trial.

Though the judge heard references to Bowman’s apparent suicide attempt on Dec. 12, the day after the jury found him guilty, Bowman didn’t wear bandages or have any visible injuries to his arms on Friday.

During trial, Senior Deputy Prosecutors Kristin Richardson and Adrienne McCoy presented evidence to show Bowman had long fantasized about killing someone when he fired into Noll’s Subaru from the driver’s seat of his silver BMW Z4 convertible on Aug. 31, 2012, at 15th Avenue Northeast and Northeast 75th Street.

Noll, 43, had just left the QFC store on Capitol Hill where he worked as a wine steward and was idling behind a bus, waiting for a red light to change when Bowman pulled alongside him and opened fire.

For the past two years, friends and neighbors have maintained a memorial at the site where Noll died.

The jury also heard that Bowman took great pains to cover up the shooting, including cutting up the barrel of his gun, paying cash to replace his shot-out window and tires, and hiding his car in his garage in the weeks before a citizen’s tip led to Bowman being identified as a suspect.

Before Heller handed down his sentence, he heard from Noll’s girlfriend and friends, as well as Bowman and his parents.

Noll was an avid outdoorsman who volunteered for Habitat for Humanity, was a course marshal during the Seattle Marathon, and taught kids how to rock climb. He was the glue that held together a large group of friends and neighbors, Heller was told.

“Yancy was a gentleman with a huge, kind heart,” said his friend, Brad Kenny. “Yancy being accused of road rage is the most ridiculous thing I ever heard because Yancy drove like a grandma. He did not drive fast, he did not drive recklessly. He never in a million years would have thrown anything at anybody while in traffic.

“Mr. Bowman is a liar and I feel sorry for him,” Kenny said.

Bowman’s father, Thom Bowman, said Noll’s death was the result of his son’s wrong action in an instant in time, not evidence of a flawed character.

“With broken hearts, we accept that our son was the instrument of Mr. Noll’s death. We will carry this burden for the rest of our lives,” the senior Bowman said.

His wife, Hong Bowman, became too emotional to finish reading her statement, so defense attorney John Henry Browne read it for her:

“Our son’s actions are our fault,” because he was allowed to learn to use guns for self-protection, Browne read. “It was our mistake,” and Hong Bowman offered to take her son’s place in prison.

Dinh Bowman tearfully addressed the judge, expressing sorrow for his family and friends, as well as those of his victim.

“I hope … they’re able to find some closure to this terrible chapter,” he said of Noll’s loved ones.

“I’m disappointed the jurors didn’t believe me and I don’t envy your task … of deciding my fate,” said Bowman as he apologized and asked for mercy.

Heller said “the random nature” of Noll’s killing, Bowman’s lack of empathy and his actions after the shooting “makes this crime egregious and disturbing.”

It appeared during trial, the judge said, that Bowman was completely disconnected “from the devastation he caused.”

“I feel very sorry for your parents, Mr. Bowman, and I want to tell them this is not their fault,” Heller said. “Mr. Bowman is responsible for his own actions.”

Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or