Man sentenced to 6 months in jail in accidental shooting of brother, may not serve time

Published: Thursday, Dec. 20 2012 5:40 p.m. MST

Eric Charlton shows a photo of his brother that he keeps in his wallet after his sentencing hearing at the 4th District Juab Courthouse in Nephi on Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

NEPHI — The mother stood before the judge having already lost her youngest son, fearful of losing of another, and talked about her heart.

"My youngest son lost his life at the hands of my oldest son," Linda Osiek said. "I don't expect anyone to understand, as it's impossible to comprehend. My heart broke that night my son died, and it's been crushed watching Eric go through this."

Both Osiek and her husband, Trevor Charlton, asked 4th District Judge James Brady on Thursday to avoid prison when it came to sentencing their son, Eric Charlton, 27, in the shooting death of their youngest son, Cameron, 17.  

Eric Charlton had pleaded guilty to negligent homicide, a class A misdemeanor, and carrying a weapon while under the influence of alcohol, a class B misdemeanor, and faced up to a year and a half in jail.

"Please let me take my son home, and let us pick up the pieces and try to rebuild a family that is hurting and has been destroyed," Osiek said. "Nothing will ever bring Cam back, no matter what is imposed on Eric."

Eric Charlton walked out of court a free man for the time being Thursday after the judge sentenced him to a suspended sentence of one year in jail for the negligent homicide charge.

The judge sentenced Charlton to six months in jail for the class B misdemeanor charge, though a review hearing will be held Jan. 15 to determine whether Charlton will actually go to jail or whether he can come up with "an alternative to satisfy deterrence other than jail."

He also ordered Charlton to pay $3,500 in fines and spend 24 months on probation.

"A life was lost, and I can not overlook that fact," Brady said. "I don't believe it was intentional."

He added, though, that while he did not believe the incident was reckless, it was "grossly negligent."

"The risk and danger you knew to be present resulted in a loss of (Cameron's) life," Brady said.

The two brothers and one of Cameron Charlton's friends were sitting around a campfire May 28 during an outing to Yuba Lake. What had been a large group had slowly dwindled as the conversation turned to ghosts and poltergeists. The trio was "spooked out," and Eric Charlton retrieved a gun from his truck.

A former Marine, Charlton emptied and cleared the weapon, according to court testimony, before he demonstrated some shooting techniques to the teenage boys. He replaced the gun's magazine and holstered the weapon, but got it back out later and, at one point as he talked about trust, he swung the gun out and it went off, killing Cameron Charlton.

Eric Charlton has reiterated that what happened was an accident and told a deputy at the scene, "It's all blank right there," when it came to just before the shooting. "I wouldn't intentionally shoot my brother."

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.

Though charged with manslaughter, a second-degree felony, the judge opted to order Charlton to instead stand trial on the reduced misdemeanor negligent homicide charge. Eric Charlton said he never felt felony charges were appropriate, but pleaded guilty as soon as misdemeanors were an option.

"I accept what happened," he said. "As much as I wish it didn't happen, after it did, I did everything I possibly could to save my brother."

Cameron Charlton's birthday was Dec. 8. He would have been 18.

Trevor Charlton said he knew Cameron and knew that he adored his older brother and would have forgiven him for what happened.

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