- Associated Press - Friday, April 27, 2018

PHOENIX (AP) - An Arizona man who tweeted that he needed to move out of the home he was living in before he killed his roommates was sentenced to 12 years in prison Friday for his manslaughter conviction in the subsequent shooting death of the owner of the suburban Phoenix house.

Zachary Dale Penton, 23, was stoic as Superior Court Judge Michael Gordon announced the sentence in the August 2016 fatal shooting of 41-year-old Danny Garofalo. Penton had faced a possible sentence of seven to 21 years in prison.

Penton, a convenience store manager who lived in the suburban Gilbert home for two months, told investigators that a struggle broke out when Garofalo, who lived in the house, came into his bedroom and told Penton he had to move out. Penton said he was acting in self-defense after Garofalo tackled him, took away his phone and threatened to kill him.

Penton told police he then reached under his pillow for his loaded semi-automatic handgun and opened fire after Garofalo frightened him by speaking irrationally. Garofalo suffered two gunshot wounds to the torso. Penton then called 911 to report the shooting.

Prosecutors have said Penton, who was not hurt, could have run away or called for help rather than shoot the unarmed Garofalo.

In the months before the shooting, Penton tweeted several posts that mentioned guns, such as comments he made on the ease of buying a gun and asking friends whether anyone wanted to go shooting on a particular day. “I need to move out of my place before I viciously murder my roommates,” Penton tweeted two days before Garofalo was killed.

At the sentencing, the victim’s brother, David Garofalo, urged the judge to impose the maximum sentence. “I am asking you to consider the pain and suffering that my family has endured,” Garofalo said. “I truly believe there is no remorse here.”

Penton, who was dressed in an orange jail suit with his hair slicked back, told the judge that he was truly sorry for killing Danny Garofalo and that he knows he was wrong in using more force than necessary to defend himself.

“I didn’t wish him any harm. I panicked,” Penton said, who has already served nearly two years of his sentence when he was jailed as his case was resolved.

As Penton was being escorted out of the courtroom after he was sentenced, someone said loudly, “Enjoy your stay!”

Penton’s attorney maintained that his client’s social media posts were hyperbolic expressions of frustration that didn’t reflect an intention to harm Garofalo.

Penton and another roommate told investigators that Garofalo acted bizarrely in the weeks before the shooting - talking about black holes and being on top of pyramids. He threw silverware around the home on the day before the shooting, they said.

Toxicology results showed Garofalo had traces of methamphetamine in his blood.


Follow Jacques Billeaud at twitter.com/jacquesbilleaud. His work can be found at https://bit.ly/2GGWEPO.

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