Wednesday, April 24th, 2013
Couple sentenced in son's accidental shooting death
11-year-old shot himself in the head while handling handgun at family's home
By Margie Wuebker
Melody R. Fisher talks with attorney Randall Breaden, left, as her estranged hus. . .
GREENVILLE - Darke County Common Pleas Court Judge Jonathan Hein minced no words when it came to sentencing Michael L. and Melody R. Fisher of rural Fort Recovery in connection with the accidental shooting of their 11-year-old son.
The Fishers, who each received five years community control sanctions (probation) plus 15 days in jail, were found guilty earlier this month of endangering children. Jurors failed to reach a verdict after 13 hours of deliberation on more serious involuntary manslaughter charges.
Hein referred to the statement, "I thought I taught my son better," Michael Fisher made during a three-day jury trial.
"Recognize children are just that - children," the judge said. "Don't expect children to have the capacity to protect themselves from dangers while growing up."
Michael "Mikey" Fisher III died Aug. 4, 2011, after shooting himself in the head while handling a 9-millimeter handgun at the family's Peters Road home, just south of the Mercer-Darke County line. Older and younger siblings reportedly were in the room at the time of the 1:15 a.m. shooting and the parents were in bed.
The judge also bristled at comments made regarding constitutional rights to bear arms.
"It is a constitutional privilege to own guns and responsibility goes with that privilege. The more guns the higher duty," Hein said referring to the 86 guns found in the Fisher home.
Michael Fisher lifted his hands in a gesture of helplessness when given the opportunity to address the court prior to sentencing.
Defense attorney David Rohrer pointed out the 33-year-old father will never see his son graduate from high school or get married.
"How much more can this court punish Michael any more than he has punished himself?" Rohrer said. "It's Newtown all over again, and the right to bear arms."
Randall Breaden, defense attorney for 31-year-old Melody Fisher, said he doesn't know of any punishment that even comes close to such a tragedy.
He added that she did not agree with the gun culture in the home and blames herself for the tragedy.
"I wish I would have done more for Mikey, but it's too late," said the mother who has voluntarily surrendered the three guns that belonged to her. "I want to be there for my other kids."
The Fishers are going through a divorce. She has moved to the Celina area and has custody of their daughter. Their son also stays with her 50 percent of the time. She has two part-time jobs - one at a carryout in Fort Recovery and the other at a hair salon in Minster.
The other two children reside with their father, who works for a family member and does fur trading.
Hein cautioned the parents not to spread acrimony as divorce proceedings continue and suggested they find better jobs that generate more income to meet the needs of a growing family.
Hein also said the 15-day jail terms, to be served in the Darke County Jail, should be staggered so at least one parent is available for the children. Additionally, each parent must pay a $500 fine, complete 60 hours of community service and seek mental health counseling.
Darke County Assistant Prosecutor Deborah Quigley had requested 30-day jail sentences and forfeiture of the guns, many of which had been left unsecured at the Fisher home.
Hein said the guns could be forfeited to the state and their value used to defray some of the court costs.
"I'm not ordering you to forfeit the guns," the judge told the Fishers. "But you can't possess them anymore due to the convictions."
The child endangering charge carried the possibility of up to five years in prison.