Hayward man sentenced to five years in fatal shooting
HAYWARD — Lorne Andrew Young took responsibility for the fatal shooting of his sister's boyfriend last fall on the Lac Courte Oreilles Reservation, but his guilty plea did little to satisfy the victim's family and a judge on Wednesday.
As Young appeared for sentencing in Sawyer County Circuit Court, Judge John Anderson clearly took exception with Young's claim that he accidentally shot 22-year-old Kyle Ross with a deer rifle along a rural road on Nov. 25.
"An accident is when you're cleaning your gun and it goes off," Anderson said. "Pulling a gun out in the heat of passion when someone is mad at you and shooting them — that is not an accident."
Anderson sentenced Young, 24, to five years in prison and five years of extended supervision, the maximum term available under the defendant's conviction for homicide by negligent handling of a dangerous weapon.
Young had never met Ross prior to the incident, which occurred along Gurno Lake Road at about 11 a.m. on the day before Thanksgiving after he picked up his sister en route to a hunting trip. Court documents indicate that Ross and Lisa Young had been in an argument, and both were upset when Ross approached Young's truck.
Young contended that he accidentally discharged the gun during a physical struggle with Ross. Sawyer County District Attorney Bruce Poquette argued that the unarmed victim was actually shot from 10 to 15 feet away.
"Neither Lorne Young nor Lisa Young can argue that a loaded firearm was pointed at Kyle Ross and that he was shot," Poquette said. "This was not an accident. This was something that was bound to happen."
The victim's mother, Erika Ross, of Wausau, spoke about the day of her son's death. She said her son, who she described as a talented artist, had been staying in the Hayward area for about a month and was hoping to return home for Thanksgiving.
She said the incident has left a void in her life.
"When I wake up in the morning, my first thought is, 'Kyle is dead,' " she said. "If the lawn needs to be mowed, my first thought is, 'Kyle is dead.' "
Despite the maximum sentence, Ross' family was left upset by the outcome of the case. Young initially faced a first-degree intentional homicide charge, which carries a life sentence if convicted, before it was reduced in an April plea agreement.
"You not only shot and killed my brother but destroyed an entire family," Kaleb Ross said in a victim impact statement Wednesday. "Five years is sickening to me."
Poquette declined to comment on the decision to enter into a plea agreement for the lesser charge.
However, Young had filed several motions seeking to exclude evidence, including his statements to police based on alleged violations of his Miranda rights. Another motion alleged that police failed to secure the truck, which the defense said had been tampered with and exposed to the elements in an impound lot during winter.
Lisa Young, the only living witness, also appeared to change her story, according to court documents.
The initial criminal complaint alleges that she told police she witnessed her brother raise the rifle to his shoulder and shoot Ross from a distance. But a defense memorandum filed this week states that she consistently told the defense team that she did not witness her brother "deliberately" shoot Ross, instead stating that it was an accident.
"Obviously, this case is an emotional one," defense attorney Elizabeth Smith wrote to the court. "The friends and family of Mr. Ross would like this case categorized as one of an intentional act, and would like to see the defendant sentenced accordingly. The facts of this case, however, simply do not support this contention."
Young declined to address the court before sentencing. Under the plea agreement, he and defense attorney Elizabeth Smith were unable to challenge the prosecution's recommendation of a five-year prison sentence.
Anderson started his comments by stating: "Somebody's lying."
"I was hoping today that somebody could explain to me how this all could happen in a logical sense," the judge said. "and the court today has not been given a good explanation as to how this situation degenerated so quickly."
While noting that the true circumstances surrounding Ross' death likely will never be known, Anderson said the proven facts presented a clear case of negligence.
"It's these types of cases that give good arguments to those who say that some people just shouldn't have guns because they can't handle the responsibility," he told Young. "On that day, you failed that responsibility. You failed miserably."
Under Wisconsin law, Young faces a lifetime ban from possessing firearms as a convicted felon.
Among the conditions of his sentence, Anderson also ordered Young to pay restitution for funeral expenses and write a letter of apology to the victim's family.
Erika Ross said afterward that she was glad to see the maximum sentence bring a close to the case — at least for the courts.
"It's not over for me," she said. "It's never going to be over."