News and Press Releases


August 12, 2005

MICHAEL KOCH, 25, of the Hoh Indian Reservation in Washington state, was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to 240 months in prison today for the murder of 18-year-old Tawnya Tom. Tom was killed December 20, 2003 in a house on the Hoh Indian Reservation. KOCH was arrested shortly after the murder and pleaded guilty to second degree murder on May 11, 2005. In sentencing KOCH Judge Franklin D. Burgess commented: "This is reprehensible. This court has seen a lot of things... . I was trying to remember when I have come across something so senseless."

According to court records, KOCH told police that he strangled Tawnya Tom, put her body in a box and dumped it in a remote location in the woods. He later led investigators to the body. KOCH claimed he killed Tom because he didn't want her to have to live with the pain of having been raped by another man in the house that night.

In asking the court for the lengthy sentence, prosecutors noted the senseless, violent nature of the crime and KOCH's history of assaulting women. In their sentencing memorandum, Assistant United States Attorneys Andrew Friedman and Tessa Gorman recalled Tom's memorial service where a speaker described Tom as a "luminous" child. "That child never will have the chance to experience adult life. Koch took that possibility away," they wrote, adding, "Koch has ruined or harmed the lives of myriad of Tom's family and friends, who will live the rest of their lives with the pain of Tom's death."

The case was investigated by the FBI, Forks Police Department, Jefferson County Sheriff's Department, Clallam County Sheriff's Department, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. KOCH was prosecuted in federal court because he is an enrolled tribal member and the murder occurred on tribal trust land.

For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney's Office, Western District of Washington, at (206) 553-4110.

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