A man accused of killing a teenager while handling a loaded handgun in a Bowling Green parking lot pleaded guilty Monday to two criminal counts.
Ronnie Alan Guess, 40, pleaded guilty in Warren Circuit Court to charges of reckless homicide and tampering with physical evidence.
Guess was accused of causing the death of Justin Vaughn, 18, of Franklin, on April 8, 2016.
Vaughn was shot once in the back of a neck with a .22 caliber revolver as he and Guess sat in a GMC Yukon parked in a gravel lot near Pioneer Auto Sales on Russellville Road.
Vaughn was hospitalized for 19 days and died April 27, 2016, at Tri-Star Skyline Medical Center in Nashville.
Guess’ attorney, Christopher Davenport, said Guess should have reasonably known the gun was loaded and that he was handling the firearm in a reckless manner, leading to the accidental shooting.
After the shooting, Guess told someone in a vehicle parked behind the Yukon to hide the handgun somewhere in the auto business, according to police.
Guess was arrested initially on a charge of first-degree assault.
After Vaughn died, a grand jury returned an indictment charging Guess with second-degree manslaughter and tampering with physical evidence.
Had he been convicted as charged, Guess faced up to 15 years in prison.
“I think he should have gotten 15 years,” Vaughn’s father, Cheyenne Vaughn, said after court Monday.
Justin Vaughn was a teenager with special needs who competed in area Special Olympics events that included the shot put, standing long jump and 100-meter dash, his family said.
Cheyenne Vaughn said his son was friendly with everyone he met, and enjoyed going to church.
“He’d cry if he couldn’t go to church,” Cheyenne Vaughn said.
Justin Vaughn’s surviving relatives have been shattered by the teen’s death.
His mother, June Vaughn, died in May, and relatives said Cheyenne Vaughn has been prone to bouts of sleeplessness recently.
Prosecutors are recommending a five-year sentence in the plea agreement Guess accepted Monday and are opposed to probation.
Guess is currently free on bond.
Final sentencing before Warren Circuit Judge Steve Wilson is set for Oct. 7.