A 34-year-old Kalispell man was sentenced Friday to more than 15 years in federal prison for robbing a pharmacy at gunpoint last year and kidnapping the pharmacist.

Shawn Patrick Malarkey pleaded guilty June 11 to robbery involving controlled substances and the use of a firearm during a crime of violence.

A plea agreement called for a shorter prison term, with both Assistant U.S. Attorney Tara Elliott and federal defender Michael Donahoe citing Malarkey’s serious mental health issues.

“He has a good heart but he is a troubled soul,” Donahoe said.

Malarkey took $3,300 worth of OxyContin from the Evergreen Pharmacy in March 2011, apparently intending to kill himself with the powerful painkiller. He was arrested after being found unconscious at the Whitefish train depot after taking a large amount of the drug.

U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy added more than three years to the sentence proposed in the plea agreement, saying he couldn’t get past the “tension” between the factor of mental illness and concern for public safety.

During the incident at the pharmacy, Malarkey demanded that a female employee drive him away. But she didn’t have a car, so the pharmacist gave Malarkey the keys to his own vehicle. Malarkey, who brandished a loaded semiautomatic handgun during the robbery, made the pharmacist accompany him and later released the man at a church.

The pharmacist was not in court Friday, but Malarkey apologized to him and the other employees and their families, and said that “to hold up a pharmnacy to obtain drugs to kill myself is the act of a coward. ... I wish I would have succeeded a long time ago.”

Molloy also sentenced Malarkey to five years on federal probation after he completes his prison term. The judge recommended that Malarkey begin his term in a federal prison hospital.

Reporter Gwen Florio can be reached at 523-5268, gwen.florio@missoulian.com or @CopsandCourts.

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