POCATELLO, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - A judge has sentenced Timothy Blaney to at least 15 years in prison.
Blaney changed his plea to guilty in August, forming a plea agreement. That agreement dropped the charge from first degree murder to second degree.
In court on Friday, Judge Mitchell Brown decided to accept the binding rule 11 plea agreement, which called for 15 years fixed in prison and 27 years indeterminate. The judge accepted that agreement and issued a unified 42 year prison sentence, 15 of which will be fixed. The remaining 27 indeterminate will be based on Blaney's conduct in prison as to whether or not he serves more than 15 years. Blaney will receive credit for the 527 days he has already served in the Bannock County jail.
The judge also issued a $2,500 to cover some costs associated with the case. The cost of restitution for the victim's family will be determined later. The judge allowed the state 60 days to determine the amount of restitution it thinks is appropriate.
Blaney was arrested and charged with the murder of 22-year-old Skylar Huffield in 2016. Blaney beat Huffield to death with a 2x4 board.
Huffield was dating Blaney's estranged wife, Diana Shaffer, who claimed in previous testimony of the case that Blaney was abusive to her. Blaney had moved to Oregon and was living there, but came back to town the night he murdered Huffield in Shaffer's house.
Brown said he took into account several factors, including Blaney's age of just 21 years old. Brown said he does not believe Blaney is the monster he's been portrayed to be, but made a "horrible, despicable mistake." If the plea agreement had been rejected, the charge would have gone back to first degree murder and it would have been up to the state to prove Blaney guilty to a jury, which would leave Blaney's fate in a jury's hands. Brown said in the interest of justice, he chose to accept the plea agreement.
Hoping to convince the judge to reject the plea agreement and issue a harsher sentence, three of Skylar Huffield's friends and family members made victim impact statements in court.
The first to speak was Kathleen Huffield, Skylar's paternal grandmother. She spoke about what kind of person Skylar was and the hole his death left behind in the family.
"It created an unbelievable hole in mine and my family's hearts."
"Our Sunday family dinners, which Skylar loved, will never be the same. The last time I spoke to Skylar he had said, 'Grandma, let's do Sunday dinner soon.'"
Kathleen Huffield described how since Skylar's death, she hadn't wanted to leave the house because people treated her differently and it was hard to face that. She described being unwilling to leave her bed for the first several weeks after Skylar's death.
"I can't help thinking about his life and his future that was taken away."
The second person who spoke was Meisha Roberts, a family friend and the mother of Diana Shaffer.
Roberts described Skylar as timid, but kind, artistic and a loving spirit.
"We will always love and miss Skylar and he will be in our hearts forever," Roberts stated on the stand.
The last to make a victim impact statement was Skylar's mother, Autumn Huffield.
"I never knew what pain was until I lost my son," Autumn Huffield stated emotionally. "Everything in my world is different and incomplete since my son was stolen away from me."
Autumn Huffield held a picture of her son Skylar throughout the court process, and while making her statement. She described how that picture went to weddings and other family events because that was all they had left of Skylar.
"I have a hard time now getting together with family because his absence is nearly unbearable."
Autumn Huffield described the last time she saw Skylar, what he said and what he was wearing. She said she thinks about that day all the time.
"My soul is tired," she stated. "There is no normal anymore and my world will never be okay."
"Nothing can bring my son back," Autumn said as she urged the judge to reconsider the plea agreement.
Blaney also made a statement to the court.
"Anything I say won't change things or bring anybody back," Blaney stated. "But it was never my intention for anyone to die. Now someone is dead and I have to live with that for the rest of my life. What I did was wrong. I didn't think before I acted and I'm ashamed of what I did."
Blaney finished by hoping to one day earn forgiveness for his actions, and he issued an apology to the court and to Huffield's friends and family.
"I am sorry for what I did."
When deliberating his decision, Brown said, "I'm sickened that we've lost, by all accounts, a wonderful human being because of a selfish, despicable act. It's heartbreaking."
He referred to the statements made by Huffield's family and the kind of person Skylar was and said it was a terrible loss. He then addressed Blaney.
"Mr. Blaney you have no idea who you murdered."
Brown said he took Blaney's age, aggravating factors such as his medical and criminal history, and the likelihood of a recurrence before making his decision.
Under Idaho law, Brown said he has to look at four things when making a decision to accept the plea agreement: protection of society, punishment, deterrence and rehabilitation.
Brown hoped because Blaney was young, he would have the chance and ability for rehabilitation and could make a change in his life.
After the judge handed down his ruling, KIFI/KIDK caught up with Skylar Huffield's family, who said they don't feel the sentence is enough.
"I don't understand the judge's decision," said Evin Huffield, Skylar's aunt, who was close in age with Skylar and grew up with him. "He said that he has to do an even balance of justice and mercy but there was no mercy when Skylar was murdered. And 15 years is nothing in the grand scheme of things. Skylar's life was taken our lives are ruined, our lives will never be the same anymore. Fifteen years is nothing."
"We're very disappointed in what happened here today," Autumn Huffield said of the ruling. "It doesn't seem fair - 15 years for somebody losing their life. And he'll be free and aged younger than me and able to enjoy the rest of his life when my son was robbed of that."
"Disappointed," said Sierra Hoskins, Skylar's sister. "I mean nothing really will justify my brother's death. I don't even think a life sentence would."
The family said Blaney did more than take Skylar's life. He ruined many others by the toll Skylar's death has taken on his loved ones.
"I know majority of us take medication, we go to therapy," Evin Huffield described. "Sometimes it's a day at a time and sometimes it's an hour at a time. Sometimes we can't get out of bed."
"It's an everyday struggle," Hoskins said. "Everything that you do, everything that you go to, everything reminds you of the person that you lost."
"There's no normal," said Autumn Huffield. "You find a way to live with the pain but it doesn't go away."
"I just want the world to know and remember what a great person he was and what the world is missing without him," Autumn Huffield added.