WEST BATH — Dylan Grubbs, 24, the Thomaston man charged with manslaughter in the accidental shooting death of his girlfriend last year, pleaded guilty Monday to a lesser charge and was sentenced to 2½ years in prison.

At a court appearance in West Bath, Grubbs pleaded guilty to domestic violence reckless conduct with use of a firearm, a Class C felony that will prevent him from ever owning another firearm.

After hearing from prosecutors, the victim’s family, Grubbs and his attorney, Superior Court Justice Daniel Billings sentenced Grubbs to five years in prison with 2½ years suspended. He will also serve four years probation and is required to repay $1,275 to the state victims compensation fund for funeral expenses.

Prosecutors said they pursued the domestic violence charge in order to extend Grubbs’ probation from a possible two to four years. Outside the courthouse, Assistant Attorney General Leanne Zainea expressed satisfaction with the outcome of a case that represented a first in Maine.

“We haven’t brought in the past cases where there has been this reckless mishandling of the gun,” Zainea said. “We believe that the disposition here adequately reflects the defendant’s conduct and the result.”

On. Nov. 16, 2015, a 9 mm Taurus pistol Grubbs was showing to a potential buyer discharged, hitting Grubbs’ girlfriend, Chelsea Jones, 22, in the head as she sat in the front seat of his SUV in the parking lot of a Bath supermarket. Jones was taken to Maine Medical Center in Portland, where she died three days later.

The Sagadahoc County grand jury indicted Grubbs on a manslaughter charge in February. He was also indicted on a charge of illegal possession of a firearm, stemming from a felony case against him when he was 14. Prosecutors dropped the weapons charge when they learned Grubbs had not been convicted of the earlier felony.

Laying out the government’s case on Monday, Zainea said Grubbs, unfamiliar with the gun he was trying to sell, inadvertently loaded a bullet in its chamber as he attempted to disassemble it. Standing outside his SUV in the parking lot, Grubbs pulled the trigger, firing the gun and shattering the passenger side window. When first responders arrived, they found Grubbs holding Jones’ neck and face.

Speaking to the mostly empty courtroom Monday, Keith Jones, Chelsea’s father, attributed his daughter’s death to Grubbs’ recklessness.

“Chelsea did not assume that risk that day,” he said, his voice cracking. “She did not expect to never come home.”

Jones said his family was not convinced that Grubbs had learned from the accident and proclaimed the sentence for the lesser charge “will never be enough.” Outside the courtroom, Jones said he hoped others would learn from his daughter’s death.

“I hope there’s a lot of people out there that will listen and learn that gun safety is a needed thing,” he said. “So this never happens again.”

Before his sentencing, Grubbs stood and faced the Jones family, saying he was there “to accept responsibility,” before turning away and breaking down into quiet sobs.

Jones and Grubbs had two small children together, Kyleigh and Jordan. Billings urged Grubbs to address his substance abuse issues so he could return home to raise his children. In March, while Grubbs was out on bail, he was arrested and charged with operating under the influence and possession of illegal drugs. He subsequently attended a 45-day residential treatment program for substance abuse.

Prosecutors said toxicology reports showed drugs and alcohol did not play a role in Jones’ death.

Jones’ family set up a gofundme page to support the children. They were forced to update the site when a fraudulent campaign began soliciting money. To date their effort has raised $3,270 of $5,000.

 


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