Four friends drove in a two-door Honda to a house in Macon 10 days before Christmas 2010.
When they arrived at the house, located in the 1800 block of Rocky Creek Road, two of the friends got out, leaving Ronald Howard and Sharonte Terrell Davis in the car, said Neil Halvorson, a Bibb County prosecutor.
Howard, 32, of Roberta, was behind the wheel. Davis, now 24, was sitting in the driver’s side back seat.
A gun fired, shooting Howard in the back.
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He went into the house but later died at a local hospital, Halvorson said.
Davis pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter Monday during a hearing in Bibb County Superior Court. He was sentenced to three years in prison followed by seven years on probation. Davis also must pay a $500 fine.
Had the case gone to trial, one of the surviving two friends would have testified that he heard Davis say, “Damn, my gun went off,” after Howard had been shot, Halvorson said.
Jurors would have heard evidence that an impression was found in the back of Howard’s seat, he said.
But they also would have heard about how Davis later dropped the gun used in the killing while running from police after he was identified as a suspect. When an officer picked up the gun, it discharged, shooting the officer in the hand, Halvorson said.
A GBI lab technician tested the gun and found it to be in proper working condition, he said.
Defense attorney Mark Beberman said Howard’s seat reclined and struck the gun, causing it to go off.
Howard’s aunt, Jackie Willis, read a statement during the hearing, describing the hurt her family has felt since her nephew’s death.
“The death of my nephew put a sword through the bones of my family as if someone had taken an electrical instrument and just set it to our flesh and shocked us unconditionally. And as of today, that shock hasn’t been released from our bodies,” Willis said.
Her family’s Christmas in 2010 was filled with tears, hurt and anger.
“Most families were celebrating the birth of Jesus, being around their families, opening Christmas presents. ... My family was concentrating on why, or who, could do this senseless thing,” she said.
Willis quoted scripture and spoke of God’s judgement and eternal punishment.
She said the courts can’t give Davis enough years to compensate her family for the hurt they feel.
“Hatred is a word that we choose not to use,” Willis said. “But justice is a word my family wants.”
Davis didn’t speak on his own behalf before he was sentenced.
“He feels a tremendous amount of remorse for what happened,” Beberman said.
Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report.