OLYMPIA (AP) — A 14-year-old boy has pleaded guilty to manslaughter for fatally shooting his sleeping father a year ago.
The teen was sentenced Thursday to at least 3 years in a juvenile corrections facility, The Olympian reported.
The boy had been charged with first-degree murder. The first-degree manslaughter plea deal allowed him to continue asserting he shot Jimmie Asher Jr., 39, by accident. The sheriff’s office said there was “discord” between the man and his son, then 13.
Diane Johnson called 911 on Oct. 23, 2011, after waking to find her fiance unresponsive and covered in blood. She had been wearing earplugs and investigators think she did not hear the single shot from a .17 caliber rifle that was fired into the man’s head from close range.
Thurston County Deputy Prosecutor Wayne Graham and defense lawyer Robert Jimerson jointly recommended that the boy serve 3 years or until he turns 21, depending on how he responds to treatment.
The boy calmly embraced weeping family members before being taken into custody.
Jimerson read from a letter written by his client:
“I know it may seem like I don’t care about what happened to my dad, but that is not true. I miss my dad every day. It’s just easier for me to avoid things that make me feel sad.”
Jimmie Asher Jr.’s brother, Bob, spoke before the sentencing, telling the court he thinks the shooting was accidental.
Johnson said she’s troubled by the fact that the boy never apologized to her.
The boy was well-behaved and normal, she said.
The prosecutor said again Thursday that the physical evidence and the boy’s behavior are inconsistent with an accidental shooting. A forensic pathologist’s report said the evidence shows the boy had to have been leaning over the bed when the trigger was pulled, Graham said.
According to court documents, the boy gave conflicting statements about what happened.
“He stated he didn’t check to see if anyone had been struck, instead, he returned to his room and calls his mother,” court papers said. “When his mother arrived, he jumped out of his bedroom window and went to the car.”
Investigators think at least 39 minutes passed between the gunshot and when aid was summoned.
Several of the boy’s high school friends attended the hearing and said they think the shooting was accidental.
They said they’ve visited him frequently while he’s been under house arrest.