SALT LAKE CITY — A target shooter who accidentally shot and killed a 14-year-old boy who was out for a Sunday drive with his family was ordered Wednesday to help teach others about gun safety.
Kayleen Richins, 40, was spared jail time when a 1st District judge sentenced her to appear in an educational video for a sportsmen's group and teach young hunters about the importance of knowing their backstop.
Richins didn't realize there was a road several hundred feet behind the target she was shooting at in November until the bullet struck and killed Zackary Kempke, court documents show.
"Knowing and being sure what is behind what you're shooting, that's the lesson," said Rich County Attorney Benjamin Willoughby. "It's a tragedy that's permanent and it was a harm that would have been preventable if she'd just followed the common practices of responsible gun owners, of not shooting unless you know where your bullet's going."
Prosecutors didn't seek any jail time for Richins, in part because her guilt and remorse have been apparent and she has expressed a desire to help, Willoughby said.
"You can just look at her, and she physically shakes when she speaks with you," he said.
Still, Zackary's mother has previously told investigators that she felt a year in jail would be appropriate. She and other family members did not attend the somber hearing Wednesday because they are still mourning and trying to heal.
In December, Richins admitted that she fired her rifle, shooting through the target and striking Zackary in the back seat of the family's car. The 14-year-old and his mother, father and sister had gone for a drive to take in fall colors in the remote corner of the Monte Cristo range between Woodruff and Huntsville, police said.
Richins pleaded guilty to a charge of negligent homicide, a class A misdemeanor.
The county in Utah's remote northeastern corner had another deadly rifle accident in 2014, when antelope hunter James Townsend was killed as he stood up in front of his brother's scoped gun.8 comments on this story
But Zackary's death was unique. "You just have a little boy that was just out there seeing leaves that day," Willoughby said. "We have 2,000 people (in the county) and stuff like this shouldn't happen."
Judge Thomas Willmore barred Richins from carrying a gun while on two years of probation. In addition to the 300 hours of community service with a sportsman's group and 180 hours with youth hunters, she was ordered to pay a fine of $2,500.
Richins' attorney Carl Anderson did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.