MORGANTOWN - A Lexington man pleaded guilty Wednesday in Butler County in connection with a shooting death.
Clifton Jones, 29, entered a guilty plea on a charge of second-degree manslaughter before Butler Circuit Judge Ronnie Dortch.
Jones admitted to causing the death of Michael McCoy, 28, of Morgantown, about 12:30 a.m. Feb. 24, 2010. According to court records, McCoy was fatally shot at a residence at 237 Provo Road in Butler County.
Investigators from Kentucky State Police Post 3 responded and found McCoy lying dead inside the residence. Witnesses reported that Jones left the scene in a black truck missing part of its front bumper.
KSP troopers located the truck, a 2007 Chevrolet Silverado, traveling north on Interstate 65 and arrested Jones near the 65-mile marker in Hart County.
"They stopped (Jones) and found he had blood on his hands and shirt," KSP Detective Scott Skaggs wrote in an incident report. "He admitted to shooting (McCoy) in an interview."
Butler County Commonwealth's Attorney Tim Coleman said there did not appear to be an argument of any kind between Jones and McCoy before the shooting, and the two were in fact friends. Jones claimed to investigators he was not aware the gun was loaded at the time.
"Mr. Jones said that in playing with the gun, he pointed it at (McCoy) and pulled the trigger," Coleman said.
Jones' attorney, Rachel Yavelak of Lexington, said the agreement her client reached with prosecutors was a fair resolution to the case. "This whole case is a tremendous tragedy," Yavelak said. "Both he and Michael had been friends since kindergarten."
Originally from Butler County, Jones was visiting McCoy and some other friends on the night of the shooting.
Yavelak said that first McCoy and then Jones handled the firearm and it discharged as Jones handled it, with a bullet striking McCoy.
"My understanding is it was a complete accident," Yavelak said. "From my understanding of the events, nobody believed the gun was actually loaded."
Jones was originally charged with murder and three counts of first-degree wanton endangerment.
He was scheduled to go to trial Wednesday, but the plea agreement resulted in a conviction on a lesser charge and the dismissal of the wanton endangerment counts, which were based on allegations that Jones was traveling at a high rate of speed on I-65 when state troopers identified his vehicle.
Coleman said four co-defendants have been charged with tampering with physical evidence, a Class D felony punishable by up to five years in prison, in connection with the investigation.
The co-defendants are scheduled to be in court next month.
Coleman has recommended an eight-year prison sentence for Jones. Formal sentencing by Dortch is scheduled for Feb. 14.