When Erika Davis dropped off her son, Alex Davis, at Western Kentucky University to begin his senior year in the summer of 2017, she could not have predicted that was the last time she would see him alive.
Davis, 21, of Corbin, died Sept. 3, 2017, the victim of a gunshot that occurred as he and his friend Peter Gall were engaging in horseplay at a house on Kenton Street.
Gall, 22, of Frankfort, was sentenced Wednesday to four years in prison, having earlier pleaded guilty to a count of reckless homicide in a case that the presiding judge called an “unspeakable tragedy.”
Davis and Gall were friends and had roomed together at one point during their enrollment at WKU.
Gall described Davis in court Wednesday as his “best friend.”
Erika Davis said her son enjoyed outdoor activities that included boating, water skiing and golf, and was studying biology at WKU with an eye toward a career in optometry.
Since her son’s death, the family has contended with many reminders of what they have lost, she said.
“No parent should ever be faced with the heartache we are being forced to endure,” Erika Davis said. “When he died, a piece of us died with him ... our family received a life sentence because of Mr. Gall.”
In prior testimony, Gall said he and Davis were “playfighting” when he retrieved a shotgun that he planned to use to scare Davis, admitting that he was intoxicated and neglected to check for a shell in the chamber.
The shotgun went off, wounding Davis in the right hip area at point-blank range.
Gall was arrested on an initial charge of second-degree manslaughter, which was reduced through a plea agreement to the count of reckless homicide.
“I know I can’t undo what I’ve done and there’s nothing I can say,” Gall said Wednesday. “I never meant for this to happen ... I hope that one day (the Davis family) can forgive me for what I’ve done. I hope I can one day forgive myself.”
Gall’s attorney, Alan Simpson, filed a motion for probation ahead of Wednesday’s sentencing, arguing that prison would be unnecessary to deter Gall from committing additional crimes.
“I can’t imagine the pain that the Davis family is going through, and I have witnessed firsthand what the Gall family is going through,” Simpson said. “I know that the Galls are good people and Peter’s a good kid ... this could be anyone’s son, anyone’s daughter that could get themselves into a situation like this.”
Gall’s mother, sister and girlfriend testified on his behalf Wednesday.
The witnesses read statements testifying to the remorse Gall has felt for his actions.
“Peter has been honorable in his ownership of this accident,” Gall’s mother, Debra Gall, said. “He never meant to hurt Alex, he never meant to cause anybody such pain.”
Warren County Common-wealth’s Attorney Chris Cohron, who recommended the four-year sentence in the plea agreement, argued that placing Gall on probation would unduly depreciate the serious nature of the crime, mentioning how Gall “inconceivably introduced a shotgun” into the incident.
“This is something that should not have happened,” Cohron said. “I think this is a staggering cautionary tale about how fragile life is.”
In pronouncing the sentence, Warren Circuit Judge John Grise said that a sentence of no incarceration seemed “disproportionate to the tragic loss of life.”
“This is an unspeakable tragedy ... one young life ended, another changed forever,” Grise said. “This senseless death was the unintended consequence of alcohol and horseplay between boys.”