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Man pleads guilty to girl's shooting death
The story was updated to correct the date of the shooting.
BARSTOW • Before a word was said at the final court hearing for Justin DeBois, a man who accidentally shot and killed a 9-year-old girl last year, he sat in his chair, put his head down and sobbed.
The Barstow 22-year-old wept through most of the hearing where he pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to two years in jail. He was released from custody that day as he received credit for time served and good behavior.
Nearly all in the Barstow Superior Court room shed tears as Deputy District Attorney Shannon Faherty read the family’s victim impact statements.
Richard and Rose Harbin stood behind the prosecutor as she read their words describing the nightmare of losing Ann — a little girl they called “Strawberry.”
Ann loved Nutella for breakfast and hot dogs in macaroni and cheese for dinner, according to Richard Harbin’s statement. She loved to sing, swim and operate her fake restaurant. Her restaurant sign still hangs on the wall. Her favorite Bible verse was John 3:16 and she would recite it over and over: “For God so loved the world he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever should believe in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”
Richard Harbin wrote only someone who has lost a child could understand how much pain he suffers on a constant basis. He felt DeBois’ punishment should be eye for an eye: the death penalty.
“He took the life of my daughter,” he wrote. “She had so much to look forward to. She’ll never see the fifth grade ... She’ll never get to graduate ... I’ll never have the pleasure of walking her down the aisle on her wedding day.”
But Rose Harbin believed DeBois suffered enough just in knowing his “stupid mistake” claimed Ann’s life.
“He loved Ann like a little sister and she loved him too,” she wrote.
Judge Miriam Morton said she decided on DeBois’ sentence after considering the severity and impact of the crime, but weighing his clean record and immediate and consistent remorse.
Two years was the suggested penalty in DeBois’ probation officer’s report. In his interview with officers, DeBois said after he gets out he wants to go to hunting classes and teach gun safety.
Though he grew up around guns, DeBois was showing off to Ann’s older sister in July 2011, when he aimed at a soda can and pulled the trigger of what he thought was an unloaded gun.
He looked over, he told police, and saw Ann grab her face and fall to the ground.
That is a vision he will never forget, said his attorney, David Call.
“He wants to teach people ... never, ever point a firearm — empty or not, toy or not — at anything you don’t want shot,” Call said. “The consequences are a little girl that will always be a painful memory.”
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