Family tragedy: Man who shot brother sobs with remorse
He told the deputy he had some drinks that night — two mixed drinks and maybe a couple of beers. He submitted to a blood draw four hours later. His blood alcohol level was .06.
Cameron Charlton died at the scene from a gunshot wound to the head, said Dr. Julie Adams, assistant Utah medical examiner. She testified the weapon would have been touching the skin when it was discharged.
Defense attorney Susanne Gustin called two defense witnesses, including James Gaskill, who directed the Weber State University crime laboratory for 24 years. He said it was possible the weapon had not have been pressed hard against the head, but could have come in close contact before or after the weapon was shot.
Justin Bechaver, who works in the firearm section in the state crime lab, said the gun did not appear to have any inherent issue that would cause it to misfire or accidentally discharge.
"The gun works as is designed," he said. "The safeties are all intact."
John Luthy, Charlton's platoon sergeant in the Marines and a weapons instructor, said Charlton was a mortar man in the Marines and would have had little handgun training. What training he did have was on a Berretta, which was quite different from the Springfield 1911 semiautomatic pistol Charlton had that night.
Still, when it came to loading magazines, "He was trained to slam it home," Luthy said.
Bechaver testified that on the Springfield pistol, applying a lot of force to the magazine as it is loaded could cause it to slide into the battery of the weapon and load a bullet into the chamber. It did so about one-third of the time when he tested it, he testified.
"Our position here is not that Mr. Charlton intentionally fired this weapon at his brother," Juab County Attorney Jared Eldridge said. "Our position is he handled that firearm in such a reckless manner that it caused the death of his brother."
Gustin countered that what was described in court didn't meet what the state statute requires in showing recklessness, because it didn't show that Charlton "actually perceived the risk and consciously disregarded it."
The courtroom was packed, with spectators standing and filling the jury box. A number of Cameron's friends attended, many wearing homemade white and blue ties with his nickname, "Cam Bam," written on them. He would have been a senior at Fremont High School this year.
Charlton's family, who also struggled throughout the hearing, stood behind Charlton. His father hugged him during a court break and his wife and mother held his hands as he left court.
"They are behind Eric 100 percent," Gustin said. "They've lost Cameron, they don't want to lose Eric. They don't want to lose another son. ... This was a horrible accident."
Charlton, of West Haven, is charged with manslaughter, a second-degree felony, reckless endangerment, a class A misdemeanor, and carrying a dangerous weapon under the influence of alcohol or drugs, a class B misdemeanor. Brady said he will take the case under advisement and issue a written ruling, but did not give a timeframe.
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