CASTLE DALE — An Emery County prosecutor extended a plea bargain Tuesday to a man charged with manslaughter, based in part on a recent ruling in a tragic case of a man killing his younger brother.
In July, Emery County prosecutors charged Randy John Behling with manslaughter, a second-degree felony, for providing a loaded handgun to an intoxicated woman who then committed suicide in his home. Behling's four children were sleeping in the home when the shooting occurred.
He was also charged with four counts of reckless endangerment, a class A misdemeanor, and one count of carrying a dangerous weapon while under the influence of alcohol, a class B misdemeanor.
On Tuesday, Behling pleaded guilty in 7th District Court to two counts of reckless endangerment, a class A misdemeanor, and the other charges were dismissed.
A judge's ruling last month in another shooting case — this one in the state's 4th District in Juab County — contributed to the decision to offer Behling a plea deal, said deputy Emery County attorney Brent Langston.
That ruling came in the case of Eric Charlton.
Charlton, 27, was initially charged with manslaughter, a second-degree felony, after he shot and killed his younger brother during a camping trip at Yuba Lake in May.
But last month, a judge dismissed the manslaughter charge and ordered Charlton to stand trial on a lesser charge of negligent homicide, a class A misdemeanor.
"In looking at (the Charlton) case as opposed to (the Behling) case, and the strength of the evidence, we felt like, clearly the reckless endangerment elements could be met," Langston told the Deseret News.
"It was problematic whether the manslaughter charge (against Behling) would be bound over" for trial, he said.
Behling was asleep on July 28 when A'Lisa Weston, an acquaintance, showed up at his home in Ferron. The 22-year-old woman was intoxicated, investigators said.
Behling, who told detectives he was also drunk when Weston arrived, said she claimed she was breaking up with her boyfriend and "was just going to kill herself," according to a search warrant.
Behling said he reached into his bedroom closet, pulled out a loaded .40-caliber handgun "and told (Weston) to go ahead and do it," Emery County sheriff's detective John Barnett wrote in the warrant. Behling also told the detective he chased Weston through the house after she had the gun, telling her not to shoot herself.
"He told me that she pointed the gun at her head and then moved it down and the gun went off," Barnett wrote.
In a subsequent interview Behling told detectives he didn't give Weston the gun, but said she grabbed it from him. "There's conflicting statements from him and he's the only (witness) we have," Langston said.
An autopsy determined Weston died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest, something her mother still refuses to believe.
"He killed my daughter," said Melissa Weston, who has been a critical of the investigation of her daughter's death from the beginning and opposed the plea bargain for Behling.
"I do not believe in this suicide stuff," she said. "I wanted to see him be convicted of everything. I'm just disappointed in the legal system."
Langston expressed his sympathy for Weston's family, but said his decision about whether to take Behling's case to trial was based on the evidence.
"I don't blame (Melissa Weston) for taking the position she did, and that she has now," the prosecutor said. "She believes that Mr. Behling is the one that pulled the trigger. There's simply no evidence to support that."
Behling has completed a 60-day alcohol treatment program since his arrest, according to defense attorney Steven Killpack. He is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 15.