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Originally published Saturday, October 17, 2009 at 12:14 AM

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Seattle man sentenced to 16 years in woman's murder

A man who fatally beat and stabbed a woman inside his South Seattle apartment more than two years ago was sentenced Friday to more than 16 years in prison.

Seattle Times staff reporter

A Seattle man who beat and stabbed a woman 14 times after he picked her up outside a gas station cast his gaze downward as his elderly parents cried and his sister pleaded for their family to be forgiven for what he had done.

When it was Tuan Quach's turn to speak during his sentencing Friday for murder, he turned toward Jennifer Lehtinen's family and offered his own apology in the hushed Seattle courtroom.

"I am so sorry for everything I have done. I am so sorry for your pain," said Quach. "I stole Jennifer from you. I had no right."

Quach, 37, was sentenced to more than 16 years in prison for killing Lehtinen in a cocaine-fueled rage in his South Seattle apartment on May 1, 2007. He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder with a deadly weapon last month, just days before his trial for first-degree murder was to begin in King County Superior Court.

Seattle police were called to Quach's apartment after neighbors said they heard a woman screaming, a police report said. Officers found Lehtinen's naked body and Quach covered in blood, prosecutors said.

Police say Quach had picked up Lehtinen, 42, in an area known to be frequented by prostitutes.

Lehtinen had been in and out of jail for a number of crimes. Her family always remained hopeful that she would get better, Senior Deputy Prosecutor Julie Kays said in court Friday.

"Despite Jennifer's circumstances, she wasn't a nobody," Kays said. "She has a family in this courtroom who miss her greatly."

Lehtinen's sisters, son and in-laws told Superior Court Judge Michael J. Fox how much they loved her and how much she's missed.

"She had her struggles; she had her own demons," said Joan Zefkeles, the slain woman's sister-in-law. "It doesn't mean she needed to be taken in this manner. Nobody deserves that."

Timothy Lehtinen, the slain woman's son, angrily told Fox that the 16-year sentence wasn't long enough. He later interrupted Quach's attorney, Ben Goldsmith, and said that blaming cocaine for the attack wasn't a strong defense.

Timothy Lehtinen later approached the judge after hearing Quach's tearful family to apologize for interrupting Goldsmith. He wished Quach "good luck" in prison.

Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or jensullivan@seattletimes.com

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