A Scripps Ranch teenager who shot his father to death and tried to kill his mother and brother will serve no more than nine years for those crimes because he was tried as a juvenile, a judge ruled Friday.
The 16-year-old defendant, identified in court as Chance P., was found guilty of second-degree murder and attempted murder for killing his father in his parents' bedroom.
The teen, who was 15 at the time, fired five shots at his father, Tranh "Sonny" Pham, before aiming the gun at his mother and then fleeing his family's home on April 29, 2018.
Tranh Pham had set up security cameras inside the family's Scripps Ranch home. Those cameras captured chilling video that showed the teenager aim the weapon at his mother and fire one round in the direction of his brother.
Tranh Pham died of his injuries but his wife and son were not injured.
Evidence at his trial revealed Chance P. was angry that his father restricted his internet access and put limits on how much he could play a first-person-shooter video game.
He used his father’s handgun, which was left loaded and unlocked in a bedroom cabinet to carry out the act.
The teen’s attorney, Mary Ellen Attridge, argued unsuccessfully at trial that her client acted in self-defense after years of abuse; she said her client did not intend to kill his father and fired the gun because his father lunged at him.
Judge Louis R. Hanoian said he wasn't swayed by the prosecution's portrait of Tranh Pham as an "abusive ogre."
"I’m finding that the portrayal of Sonny as an ogre of that type is contrary to the evidence in this case. I do not make such a finding," Hanoian said as he delivered his verdict.
At Friday’s hearing, Hanoian sentenced Chance P. to a total of 40 years to life in prison plus 27 years for three violent felonies but because the case was tried in juvenile court, the teen will be freed from custody at age 25, at the latest.
Prosecutor Mary Loeb said Chance P. will also be eligible for a juvenile parole hearing in seven years, or sooner, if he avoids problems in juvenile prison.
Attridge asked the judge to place her client in a less-restrictive setting, but the judge rejected that request, noting that discipline and community safety are as important as training, education and the possibility of reform for the teen killer.
Chance P. did not speak at Friday’s sentencing hearing, but his attorney said her client is "remorseful and deeply regrets killing his father."
His attorney also said her client will appeal the guilty verdicts in his case.
The teen was tried for murder as a juvenile. Cases involving minors are usually closed to the public, but his trial was open because of the seriousness of the charges.