Bates Township man given chance to clear felony record in fatal shooting

RONALD EGELER

CRYSTAL FALLS — A Bates Township man who accidentally shot and killed a 20-year-old woman last March while under the influence of marijuana was given the opportunity Tuesday to keep the felony conviction off his record.

However, 22-year-old Ronald Austin Egeler first will have to spend seven months in jail and successfully complete four years of probation to get that benefit of his Holmes Youthful Trainee Act, or HYTA, sentence. He also must forfeit the gun used in the incident and pay restitution in an amount yet to be determined.

“I believe that you believe that it was an accident, but I don’t,” Judge C. Joseph Schwedler told Egeler at sentencing in Iron County Trial Court. “If we intentionally use drugs or alcohol, then we take on the responsibility for what happens.”

Egeler previously pleaded no contest to attempted use or discharge a firearm under the influence causing death, a five-year felony.

Egeler, Savannah Marcell and a third person were talking March 23 about going out to shoot their guns, so they decided to clean them, according to a portion of the police report read in court.

Egeler told police he cleared his .380 pistol before allowing the other two to compare its trigger pull to Marcell’s gun. He said he must have put the magazine back in his gun afterward, meaning it was loaded when he went to disassemble it.

Egeler put tension on the trigger, causing the gun to go off and kill Marcell, the report stated.

Some time later, Egeler admitted to police he had consumed marijuana 20 to 30 minutes before the shooting, according to the report.

Egeler has no history of violence or criminal activity, and never intended to hurt Marcell, defense attorney Geoffrey Lawrence pointed out.

“You’ve got a young woman whose life was taken from some negligence, and nothing I can say or nothing Mr. Egeler can say can take away that loss to her family and to everyone,” he continued. “It’s just a terrible set of facts and circumstances.”

Lawrence suggested a four- to five-month jail term, noting the Michigan sentencing guidelines put his minimum sentence in the zero to 14-month range.

Egeler declined to speak on his own behalf.

Like the judge, Iron County Prosecutor Melissa Powell questioned using the word “accident” to describe Egeler’s actions. The marijuana may have eased his inhibitions and caused him to pay less attention to detail, she said.

Powell also took note that Egeler was a hunter safety/firearms instructor.

“He is a person who teaches safety to other people and yet he did not follow that himself,” she said.

Powell argued against a HYTA sentence, saying the felony should remain on his record as both a reminder to him and a note to law enforcement.

Marcell’s parents each made victim impact statements to the court; her father via a letter and her mother in person.

Both mentioned Marcell leaving behind a 1-year-old son who will never know his mother, as well as many family members and friends who loved her.

But they had differing opinions on what should happen to Egeler.

“Please throw the book at the person responsible,” the father wrote. “My daughter would be here if this hadn’t happened.”

“I know that what happened that night was an accident,” the mother told the court. “Your honor, please have mercy on Ron. Savannah would not have wanted him to suffer further.”

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