The first of two co-defendants in a November 1998 shooting death received probation Tuesday.
A Topeka man will spend 30 days in jail for the accidental shooting death of a 16-year-old girl, but a judge decided against sentencing the Topekan to prison.
Donald R. Koch, 22, on Friday will begin serving 30 days in the Douglas County Jail, Douglas County District Judge Jack Murphy said Tuesday at Koch's sentencing.
On Nov. 24, 1998, Koch was illegally hunting deer at night. He was holding a rifle while climbing into the back of a pickup truck on the Scenic River Road (North 2190) in northern Douglas County. He stumbled. The gun fired. The bullet struck Misty Taylor's head. She was in the truck's passenger seat.
According to state sentencing guidelines, Koch's conviction for involuntary manslaughter and conspiracy to commit criminal hunting placed him in a "border box." That means the judge could choose probation or prison. Koch had no prior criminal history.
Murphy gave Koch a three-year probation, and ordered him to follow the recommendations of drug and alcohol treatment evaluations. Koch also must complete 200 hours of community service.
"This case was very difficult from a lot of perspectives," Dist. Atty. Christine Kenney Tonkovich said. "It was a tragedy. There's no doubt the defendant didn't intend his actions to result in the tragedy."
But, Tonkovich said, a jury found that Koch acted recklessly when it returned a guilty verdict in August.
Based on the testimony and the options available to Murphy, "I can't disagree with the judge's sentence," Tonkovich said.
Koch spoke briefly during the sentencing, apologizing to members of the Taylor family.
Joseph Beier, 21, has also been charged in the case. Beier, Taylor's boyfriend at the time of the shooting, was also involved in the hunting trip. He will be in court on Nov. 26, at which time his preliminary hearing will be scheduled. He faces charges of conspiracy commit criminal hunting, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.
According to testimony during Koch's trial, Beier wasn't holding the rifle when it discharged, but prosecutors plan to link his involvement in illegal hunting as a cause of Taylor's death.
-- Chris Koger's phone message number is 832-7126. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.