A Marine veteran who served two tours in Iraq was sentenced Thursday to 16 years to life in prison for stabbing a friend to death in the friend’s Oceanside home as the victim’s two toddlers slept.
Last month, a North County jury convicted David Anthony Strouth, who has post-traumatic stress disorder, of second-degree murder for killing Brad Garner, 49, while the two were hanging out in Garner’s garage.
Inside the home, a babysitter was with Garner’s sons, then ages 2 and 3, who were sleeping on the couch.
Before sentencing Strouth, Vista Superior Court Judge K. Michael Kirkman denied a request from Strouth’s attorney to reduce the jury’s verdict to manslaughter.
There was no dispute at trial that Strouth, who was living in Oceanside after spending 10 years in the Marine Corps, had PTSD. Doctors on both sides of the case said that he suffered from the disorder.
As a Marine, Strouth served a five-month tour in Iraq and returned stateside in spring 2007. He returned to Iraq in December of that year for an 11-month tour.
Strouth was honorably discharged as a corporal in 2014. According to a trial brief filed by the prosecution shortly before trial, a depressed Strouth was going through a divorce in the spring of 2015.
Sometime before 9:30 p.m. on April 24, as Garner’s toddlers slept on the couch, their babysitter heard a loud crash in the garage. Strouth entered the home shortly thereafter, and the sitter asked him if something had fallen.
“Hell fell,” was part of his reply. He returned to the garage.
Strouth soon stumbled back inside, according to the brief. He told the sitter that Garner was “the devil,” but that he had “slayed the beast.”
The woman fled the home, but returned with two neighbors who had armed themselves to protect the sleeping toddlers.
Strouth, who had started cutting himself, asked the neighbors and responding police to kill him, according to the prosecution’s filing.
Police found Strouth’s bloody K-bar knife — with the inscription Operation Iraqi Freedom — in the garage.
At trial, Strouth testified that it had been self-defense, telling the jury that Garner had come at him with the knife, and they struggled, but Strouth won control of it.
Deputy District Attorney Patrick Espinoza said Friday he was pleased with the outcome of the case. He said in October that “the verdict demonstrated that PTSD may explain but does not excuse an unprovoked killing.”
Strouth’s attorney, Sloan Ostbye, had argued that Strouth could not have had the state of mind to form malice — a required element to find a person guilty of murder — because of the PTSD.
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