Judge decides probation in ‘tragic accident’

Family, friends of dead man tell court that defendant should go to prison

Not a day goes by that Gerald Pace does not think about his son, Timothy, and his tragic death more than a year ago.

“He brought a lot of joy to us through the years,” Pace said at the sentencing hearing Friday for the man who shot Timothy. “We won’t be able to have that again, just our memories.”

One after the other, Timothy Pace’s friends and family asked Mesa County District Court Judge Richard Gurley to impose a 12-year prison sentence, the maximum allowed for Yancy
Joe Harris, 24, who pleaded guilty in the shooting.

“Our sentence … started over a year ago on Oct. 23,” Pace said. “We were sentenced to a life sentence,” Pace said.

“If this young man only gets 12 (years in prison) today, he’s a very lucky man,” Emilio Crespin, a friend of the Pace family, told the court.

Gurley said he understood their pleas but had to consider all of the evidence, including that the shooting could have been an accident and not intentional.

“There are no easy answers. … This was a tragic incident,” he said. “The behavior of Mr. Harris was reckless.”

Citing the problems he had with sentencing someone involved in an accidental shooting to prison, Gurley cut a middle road Friday morning, sentencing Harris to 12 years probation and barring him from possessing or owning guns.

Gurley said Harris’ remorse seemed genuine in court and immediately following the shooting, once the realization of what he had done caught up with him.

Harris was arrested shortly after the Oct. 23, 2007, shooting after he told a neighbor and police that Pace had shot himself.

Harris later rescinded his suicide story and confessed to shooting his friend with a .40-caliber handgun he thought was empty, according to his arrest affidavit.

During the hearing, Harris apologized to Pace’s family, asking them and the court for their forgiveness.

“I wish that I could have taken his place,” he said, visibly shaken. “I wish every day I could take it back.”


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