Monday, September 13, 2004
Steamboat Springs A 45-year-old Wisconsin man who mistakenly shot his lifelong friend during a hunting trip last fall in South Routt County was sentenced Monday to five years of probation.
Doug Jones pleaded no contest to charges of criminally negligent homicide and hunting in a careless manner. The plea was part of an agreement Jones reached with the District Attorney's Office to avoid a trial scheduled to begin Monday.
Jones was charged with the Sept. 20 hunting death of Gerald Holverson, also of Wisconsin.
During Monday's disposition hearing, Assistant District Attorney Kerry St. James read letters to the judge from Holverson's family members, who asked that a stronger sentence be imposed.
"There is really nothing I can do that makes the punishment worse than what already happened," O'Hara said.
Jones was given a deferred sentence for the criminally negligent homicide charge. He must complete four years of probation, has to do 200 hours of community service and cannot have firearms or go hunting. Jones also cannot commit a criminal offense other than minor traffic violations.
If Jones follows the terms of his probation for four years, the criminally negligent homicide charge will be dropped from his record.
Jones agreed to be on five years of supervised probation for pleading no contest to hunting in a careless manner. The Colorado Division of Wildlife is expected to impose its own sentence.
The District Attorney's Office claims Jones heard a noise in the brush in the early morning of Sept. 20. Jones thought he saw a six-point elk, but what he fired at on the dim and foggy morning was Holverson, whose only orange clothing was his hat.
Holverson, 44 of South Wayne, Wisc., died from a black powder gunshot wound.
He had a lacerated right lung and heart, the Routt County Coroner's report stated.
Jones and Holverson were on a weeklong hunting trip on Bureau of Land Management land about a mile west of Waller Reservoir in the King Mountain area of South Routt. Men in the party had licenses for muzzle loading and archery. The two seasons overlap for about a week.
Since February, the DA's Office and Jones' attorney, Sherman Romney, said they had been working on a plea agreement, but on Aug. 13, a trial was scheduled. Four days later, the trial was vacated when Jones said he would accept the plea offer.
St. James read letters from Holverson's family upset that Jones did not take a plea offer sooner, went deer hunting in Wisconsin two weeks after the shooting and had not checked in on Holverson's widow, who is his cousin.
Family members criticized Jones for shooting at a target before knowing what it was and hunting in the dark.
"I am unsure how someone who hunted their entire life could make such a mistake," the victim's daughter, Becky Holverson, wrote to St. James.
Another family member, Andy Holverson, spoke by telephone at Monday's hearing. He said he didn't want any more suffering for Jones' family or for Jones to serve any jail time.
"I don't think Doug should ever have the opportunity to enjoy hunting again," he said. "He took that away from Jerry and took away some of the enjoyment of that from someone who has never hunted with him."
Jones did not address the judge in court Monday, but Romney did say Jones had another story than the DA's.
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