A Lompoc man was sentenced in Santa Barbara County Superior Court on Thursday to 18 months behind bars for being an accessory to murder in March, but he most likely won’t serve more than nine months — angering the family of the 18-year-old homicide victim.
Last month, Robert James Scott, 23, pleaded no contest to being an accessory to the murder of Sarah Stoffle, who had moved from Texas months earlier.
The deal involved a split sentence — 18 months in custody and 18 months of supervised release. However, because of his credit for good behavior, the defendant is expected to serve nine months and to be released by December.
Stoffle was found dead in a shed after Lompoc police officers were dispatched the morning of March 25 to a home in the 300 block of North Y Street.
The same day, police announced they had arrested her boyfriend, Brenden Michael Terry, 20, after determining that Stoffle had been shot to death, with the wound near the center of her chest.
Terry’s great-grandmother, Florence Daniels, reportedly told police that she saw Scott on her patio “wiping the murder weapon, a sawed-off shotgun, with WD-40.”
Defense attorney Michael Scott, who is not related to his client, noted that Daniels was the only witness saying Robert Scott had cleaned the weapon. Additionally, Daniels admitted disposing of the shotgun at Surf Beach and later led law enforcement officers to the area.
During a trial, a defense attorney could raise doubts regarding her testimony about Robert Scott’s involvement because of her actions with the weapon and her role as an uncharged accomplice.
“We believe that the plea agreement Mr. Scott and I have reached is a just one, and we would ask the court to support that,” Deputy District Attorney Stephanie Schoenburg said.
In emotional victim’s impact statements delivered by Zoom, Stoffle’s grandmother, mother and sisters urged McGregor to hand down a more severe sentence.
A sister, Serena Stoffle, said Robert Scott could have taken different actions that day.
“You could have done the right thing,” she said, adding that he instead decided to “aid the coward” who shot her sister and left her in a shed.
“I can only hope you also see the image of her lifeless body, laying in the shed, every day when you wake up and every night when go to sleep. … I hope the guilt eats away at you,” she said, adding that the family’s suffering will continue.
Saying that the family remains haunted by images of Sarah Stoffle being left in the shed for hours, Serena Stoffle asked for a sentence of three years, one for each hour she was left in the shed.
“You are our family’s last hope for justice for my sister Sarah Stoffle,” Serena Stoffle told the judge.
Another sister, Sidney, called Robert Scott “a sick monster” who tried to help cover up a gruesome violent crime.
“Words cannot describe the evil that (Robert) Scott has brought upon his world. Sarah was a bright light in a dark room. She was a sweet, amazing young girl with her whole life ahead of her,” Sidney Stoffle said. “She was always putting a smile on everyone’s face. … She lit up a room with adorable smile and hilarious jokes.”
The judge asked the attorneys why the plea deal called for concurrent sentences for Scott’s role in the slaying along with his vehicle theft case from January.
Schoenburg called the plea a compromise deal, adding that the stolen vehicle’s value would have been highly contested at trial. The vehicle’s value would determine whether the crime was a misdemeanor or a felony.
“This case presents a difficult situation for the court,” Judge John McGregor, adding it was impossible to imagine the family’s suffering.
He noted he did not have access to all of the evidence like the attorneys did when they reached the plea deal and said the sentence appeared reasonable based on the few facts presented.
“I wish that I had a method to reach out to you and for you to understand the difficulty in seeing your reaction to the sentence,” McGregor said.
He also had words for Scott, saying he hoped the defendant considered the impact his actions have had on the Stoffle family.
After the hearing but with the Stoffle family still logged on via Zoom, one woman said, “This is a joke. Justice was not served today.”
The case against Terry, who allegedly shot his girlfriend, Sarah Stoffle, continues to make its way through the court and is scheduled to return Aug. 4 to a Lompoc courtroom.
Terry remains in custody at the Santa Barbara County Jail in lieu of $3 million bail.