Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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July 19, 2012

Involuntary manslaughter: Local man found guilty

WELCH — A McDowell County man who claimed a camera flash caused him to accidentally shoot and kill his wife has been convicted on a lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter.

A jury deliberated for a little over two hours Wednesday before coming back with a guilty verdict on charges of involuntary manslaughter, wanton endangerment and child neglect creating a risk of injury against Victor Horn, 45, of Big Sandy. Horn was originally charged with first-degree murder in connection with the Feb. 8, 2011 shooting death of his wife Madeline Horn.

McDowell County Circuit Court Judge Rudolph J.

Murensky II set a Sept. 7 sentencing date in the case.

Horn said he and his 12-year-old son were posing for a picture his wife was taking, and he was holding a gun, and as the flash of the camera went off, he lowered or dropped the gun and it accidentally went off when he tried to grab it. However, the state argued the man would have had to have gone through a five-step process, including activating the lever and cutting off the safety on the Winchester 30-30, for it to have went off as he claimed, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Melissa Davis said.

“When it was recovered it had six live bullets in the internal magazine, as well as one spent bullet in the chamber,” Davis said. “In order for this gun to be fired, it had to have one in the chamber, be off safety, and it actually had a release on the lever that had to be pulled up. It had to be lever activated that would cock the weapon.”

Davis said Horn was negligent in saying he didn’t know the weapon was loaded.

The state didn’t dispute Horn’s argument that he was posing for a picture.

“We have the pictures and we developed the pictures on the camera,” Davis said.

Davis said the next to last picture caught by the camera was of Horn holding the weapon with his 12-year-old son.

Davis said Horn had been drinking, but wasn’t intoxicated at the time of the shooting. She said he became intoxicated after the incident.

Post trial motions in the case are set for Aug. 17. Davis said Horn remains free on bond pending his sentencing on Sept. 7.

— Contact Charles Owens at cowens@bdtonline.com

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