Accused killer claims Capitol Hill wine steward tossed bottles in fit of road rage

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Bowman on the stand Thursday (Image: CHS)

“A violent hatred I’d only seen in the movies.” That’s how Thomasdinh Bowman described Capitol Hill QFC wine steward Yancy Noll’s actions in the moments before Bowman said he shot Noll at a north Seattle intersection in 2012.

For two weeks, prosecutors have painted Bowman as a calculated killer who studied how to get away with murder. On Thursday, Bowman, 31, said the shooting resulted from a road rage incident that went too far. Bowman said an abrupt stop he made while driving on I-5 sent Noll, 43, into a fury that made Bowman fear for his life as the altercation carried on into North Seattle. Bowman recounted how Noll followed him and hit him with a thrown bottle while both were inching along a north Seattle road.

But when it came to the actual shooting at 15th Ave NE and 75th, Bowman told jurors he doesn’t remember a thing, describing a nightmare-like state when the shots went off. Bowman testified about the myriad of ways he tried to avoid arrest in the hours and days following the incident, from destroying his gun to changing the appearance of his car.

For the first time in Bowman’s first-degree murder trial, jury members heard Bowman recount in his own soft-spoken voice the events that lead him to fatally shoot Noll. Defense attorney John Henry Browne also made his opening statements Thursday morning. Bowman faces a 20 to 30 year prison sentence, plus an additional five years for using a firearm.

According to Bowman, the incident began while he was driving ahead of Noll on I-5 near Capitol Hill just before the ship canal bridge. A driver ahead of Bowman slammed on his brakes, causing Bowman and Noll to stop abruptly. That’s when Bowman said Noll began flashing his lights, honking his horn, and yelling obscenities out his window.

As Bowman tried to get away from Noll, he said Noll pulled up next to him and yelled “you better learn how to drive that fancy car dick boy or you’re going to get fucked up.” Bowman said Noll then first chucked a water bottle into Bowman’s BMW convertible, striking him on his head.

The two continued along I-5, eventually exiting on Lake City Way. Bowman said Noll was following so close that he couldn’t slow down to make his ordinary turn home. “I started cutting people off to zig-zag to go away,” Bowman said.

Despite his best efforts to shed Noll, Bowman said he continued to follow him as he approached a stop light. That’s when Bowman said he heard a loud “thwap” and, this time, felt a wine bottle strike his head.

Bowman came to another stop and says he put up his windows and tried to close the roof of his car. As he saw Noll turn the corner towards him, Bowman said he opened his bag with his handgun inside. “I remember seeing his eyes really bulging… spitting anger,” Bowman said.

As Noll approached, Bowman said he saw Noll reach for something inside his car.

“I thought If I didn’t do something right then, I was going to die,” Bowman said. “This was the moment.”

That’s when Bowman said everything went quiet. “I stopped seeing what was going on… It was completely surreal, like a nightmare.”

Prosecutors say Bowman fired five shots. One struck Noll in the face. Witnesses said they found Noll dead inside his car with his hands on the steering wheel.

The next memory Bowman said he had was holding his gun, thinking he had to get away from Noll. Bowman said he had no intention to kill Noll and didn’t even know that he shot him.

When he got back home, Bowman did not tell his wife of seven years about the incident. He said he wanted to protect her and didn’t want to get his friends or family involved, either.

Upon searching his computer after his arrest, detectives found Bowman had viewed news stories on Noll’s death, visited the memorial Facebook page for Noll, and read articles on drive-by shootings.

Bowman told jurors that he had millions of documents on his computer on a range of subjects, from philosophy to mechanical engineering. Included in his “bulk downloads” was the Death Dealers Manual, a book Bowman said he never read but prosecutors said proved Bowman’s actions were premeditated. Bowman said he checked news websites after the shooting to see if there were any witnesses who saw Noll throw the bottles. When Bowman saw he was wanted as “the bad guy,” Bowman said he became afraid to call the police.

Police arrested Bowman several weeks later after a tipster recognized a sketch of the suspect which police created with the help of witnesses. Prior to his arrest, Bowman said he was trying to evade police.

Noll’s best friend Rick Glein told CHS after Bowman’s testimony that Noll would never act the way Bowman described.

“Its a good story to get somebody off the hook,” he said. “Everybody loved (Yancy).”

Testimony in the trial will continue into at least next week.

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34 thoughts on “Accused killer claims Capitol Hill wine steward tossed bottles in fit of road rage

      • …..Bowman said everything went quiet. “I stopped seeing what was going on… It was completely surreal, like a nightmare.”

        So he would’ve awoken from that nightmare and had the presence of mind to stop, go back, collect evidence, and call the cops? Look, I’m not saying what he did was any way justified, even if it’s true. I’m just saying that expecting rational behavior like that to kick in after that kind of wig-out is unrealistic. It’s totally contradictory in the context of the rest of his explanation. True or not.

      • The bottles were in his car. He didn’t have to “go back” and collect anything. He found them later and testified that he felt the police wouldn’t believe his story, so he threw them away.

        I think he made it all up.

      • I think Bowman is probably concocting the story about road rage, but even if it’s true it does not justify murdering someone in cold blood.

        Yancy Noll’s friends and coworkers all say he was a great guy, and I have no reason to disbelieve them. But I think even “nice guys” are capable of road rage at times……not saying he did this, but it’s possible.

      • you can’t honestly believe that, can you? There were no scratches on Bowman’s car, no broken bottles or splats of wine anywhere.

        Bowman researched at great length the crime, how to cover it up and how to perpetuate a thrill kill. He had his wife cover his tracks and he left town to make the necessary repairs on his car and then changed the tires out. He’s guilty as hell and deserves lethal injection.

        Whether or not the jury is allowed to see all the evidence so they can send him up the road for the 30 years the Prosecutor’s office is asking for will remain to be seen.

      • Yeah, where were the witnesses to this alleged throwing of 1. a water bottle and 2. a wine bottle (oh, the occupation-related detail!), both of which allegedly hit this psycho square in the head, showing some impressive aim?

      • There is not one lick of evidence to support his claims. No broken bottles. Nothing.

        He fled the scene. Lied to investigators repeatedly. Instructed his wife to lie to investigators.

        You may as well ask, golly, what if it was aliens and bigfoot!?!?

      • If his story is true… and I don’t buy it…. it would mean he shot an unarmed man.

        I just don’t see justification for killing someone because they threw bottles at your car.

        And if you believe he went temporally insane… a big stretch… that doesn’t absolve him for taking out a loaded gun. I know I’ll feel safer in traffic without trigger happy armed maniacs driving around me.

  1. So, he threw out those bottles? The only real physical evidence to back up his story? He was looking for witnesses who might have seen bottles thrown at him, but got rid of them? Not buying it.

  2. If Bowman were hit in the head by a wine bottle, even an empty one, he would probably require some sort of medical attention. That’s not the type of thing that doesn’t leave a mark, or a concussion.

  3. If Bowman was a cop he would have never been indicted in the first place. In fact, he’d probably have been on paid leave this whole time.

      • @ CapHillTom re: 20+ years comment…

        Try to see the irony in his comment given today’s climate and all.
        Personal opinion? This guy is guilty. Where I’m a little fuzzy is..why did the other guy keep following him, and for so far???

  4. “myriad of ways”.
    The word “myriad” is never followed by the word, “of”.
    It should be “myriad ways”, not ‘myriad of ways”.
    … and I’d not use the word. “myriad” too much.

  5. He was throwing bottles? From a moving vehicle? Yeah, that seems logical.

    First, let’s look at the fact that while there are witnesses to the shooting, there are no witnesses to the supposed bottle-throwing and no calls to 911 along the lines of, “Um, hey, cops? There’s a guy weaving in and out of traffic dangerously and another guy flinging bottles of wine at him…” (This was commute time, there were LOTS of possible witnesses.)

    Second, let’s think of the physics of picking up a bottle of wine (which he apparently had at the ready on his passenger seat? I realize he was a wine steward, so plausible, but…). Anyway, while driving, try to take a wine bottle and fling it at another car with enough force (and accuracy!) to strike a driver in the head. This is a nearly impossible thing to do.

    The story reeks of a concoction that includes enough details that the jury would know about the victim (he was a wine steward, would have been traveling from Capitol Hill, etc.) to hope they find it just believable enough. It then conveniently explains all of his post-murder actions. I can hear the defense lawyer now: “The evidence looks bad, kid. Look, we just have to introduce doubt…” Making it a self-defense/blackout (read: temporary insanity) scenario is the best thing they’ve got.

    Crafty, given the sheer volume of evidence against this kid. But, really, just a hail Mary story that covers the kid in as many ways as they can.

    • http://www.kirotv.com/news/news/police-road-rage-may-have-been-factor-mans-death-m/nR2S5/

      Yancy Noll was driving a small-ish Subaru wagon–how would he be able to do two accurate *overhand* throws of bottles at a passenger in another car–even if it was a convertible? On the other hand, Bowman was a practiced marksman driving a convertible, packing a gun–a much easier starting position for an assailant. If the prosecution is any good, they’ll tear this story to ribbons.

    • Do defense lawyers (John Henry Brown in this case) actually collaborate with the accused in concocting a story? Or do they pretend to believe their client? Either way, it seems pretty damn unethical to me.

  6. All of John Henry Brown’s clients seem to “black out” right when they start murdering innocent people (last one was Sgt. Robert Bales)

    It’s always amusing to watch psychopaths and sociopaths play the victim card; but it’s also typical: people with dangerous mental conditions like Bowman, Lanza, etc truly believe they are justified since the world is supposedly out to get them.

    It’s always this kind of guy who goes from “law-abiding gun owner” & “expert marksman” to dangerous criminal…. in a matter of miliseconds.

    • “He is particularly known for obtaining sympathetic treatment for his clients by shifting the focus away from the serious crimes that were committed by arguing for consideration of the background of the defendant and the circumstances in which the events took place.”

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Henry_Browne

      So he’s going with argument #2 this time…

    • Actually sympathy is the main calculated defense of a psychopath.

      “Tip-off trait of a sociopath
      Look for the pity play

      Is there any mannerism, any type of behavior, any use of language, that can identify a sociopath?

      According to Martha Stout, Ph.D., author of The Sociopath Next Door*, the best clue that you are dealing with a sociopath is the pity play.

      “The most reliable sign, the most universal behavior of unscrupulous people is not directed, as one might imagine, at our fearfulness,” Stout says. “It is, perversely, an appeal to our sympathy.”

      The combination of consistently bad or inadequate behavior and frequent pity plays, Stout continues, is the closest thing to a warning you’ll ever get that you are being manipulated by a sociopath.”

      • Yes, but that’s because the appeals process in a death penalty case is always drawn out for years, and sometimes decades. Meanwhile, the lawyers rake in the fees.

  7. To me the most unbelievable part of his carefully-concocted story is that he fired in panic after fearing for his own life. OK then… how did he just happen to hit Noll in the head *four* times? …this is a clear case of cold-blooded murder.

    Hoping this psychopath gets to spend many decades behind bars, where he clearly belongs!

  8. Pingback: Yancy Noll killer sentenced to 29 years in prison | CHS Capitol Hill Seattle