ANCHORAGE - An Anchorage man avoided the death penalty Wednesday but was sentenced to life in prison for killing his neighbor - after getting into a heated exchange with a judge who called him a coward.
Joshua Alan Wade, 29, acknowledged in court that he killed Mindy Schloss in 2007. He also took responsibility for the 2000 murder of Della Brown, for whose murder he was acquitted.
Wade was sentenced to 99 years in prison for the murder of Schloss, 52, a nurse practitioner. State Superior Court Judge Phillip Volland placed a restriction on the parole board to make Wade serve at least 66 years.
If he were released after that, at age 95, he would be turned over to federal authorities to serve out the remainder of a life sentence for murder committed during a carjacking. The latter sentence was handed down later Wednesday in federal court.
Wade, wearing a jail-issued yellow prison uniform, addressed the packed state Superior Court audience, apologized for what he had done and said spending his life in prison would not bring the two women back to their loved ones.
"I deserve much worse. I'm sorry," he said tearfully as he turned and looked at the families.
Wade reiterated the apology later in federal court, but his demeanor changed in an angry exchange with U.S. District Court Judge Ralph Beistline.
"What an evil thing you've done," Beistline said before sentencing. "What kind of person could take pleasure in the random destruction of another life?"
Beistline then described Wade as heartless, selfish and a coward.
At that point, Wade told the judge in an angry voice, "Don't push it, man."
The judge responded, "I'm going to push it."
Wade then repeated the threat.
Beistline said Wade's angry outburst was "very revealing" and said that type of anger could have been one of the last things Schloss experienced, and underscores what a danger Wade would be if free.
Earlier, at his state court sentencing, Wade said his statement that he deserved worse was not an excuse but offered as an explanation for why he chose to reject offers of help and embark on a path of "destruction and failure."
He was raised by a single mother who left him in someone else's care when he was a boy so she could work, and those caretakers sexually abused beginning when he was 5, Wade said.
"I didn't have a childhood to brag about, but I was loved. My mother did the best she knew how to," Wade said.
Instead of dealing with his feelings, he buried them and became addicted to marijuana, had a failed romance and stopped going to church, he said.
"I chose not to deal with those issues, with those abuse issues, chose instead to bury them and allow for it to fester and build into a murderous rage which ultimately resulted in a lot of pain and suffering for others," Wade said.
"I am a product of one who decided not to overcome the past and succumb to a fate I created for myself," he said.
In a signed plea agreement for the Schloss slaying, Wade also acknowledged that he killed Brown, 33, another Anchorage woman, in September 2000 by hitting her in the head with a large rock. Her battered, partially-nude body was found in an abandoned shed.
An Anchorage jury in 2003 acquitted Wade of murdering Brown but convicted him of tampering with evidence, for which he served 6½ years in prison.
Months after his release, Wade bound, gagged, kidnapped and shot Schloss in a wooded area near Wasilla.
Volland said the sentence should be particularly comforting to Brown's family members, who had to wait so long for justice. Brown's mother, Daisy Piggott, attended the sentencing wearing a white T-shirt with her daughter's face printed on the front.