Teen convicted of shooting nephew released on probation

Teen convicted of shooting nephew released on probation

URBANA — A Champaign County judge has given an Urbana teen who accidentally shot and killed his nephew a year ago a chance at a community-based sentence.

At a review hearing Thursday, the 15-year-old who fatally shot 3-year-old Mekhi Woods, 3, in the family home in the 900 block of East Pennsylvania Avenue in May 2012, told Judge Heidi Ladd he appreciated his time in prison.

The youth apologized to his family and the judge and told Ladd that had she not sent him there, he might still be the same person he was and that he wanted to change.

The teen pleaded guilty in January of this year to involuntary manslaughter, admitting that he aimed the gun at his nephew on May 16, 2012, and pulled the trigger, apparently unaware that the gun was loaded.

In March, Ladd sentenced him to the juvenile division of the Department of Corrections after hearing that after the fatal shooting, he had been in and out of substance abuse programs, got into trouble at school, broke into a car, and was arrested for stealing alcohol.

Assistant State’s Attorney Matt Banach told the judge the youth should remain in prison while Assistant Public Defender Jim Kuehl argued that his exemplary behavior there and progress in substance abuse counseling had earned him the right to return to the community.

After hearing from the teen Thursday, Ladd agreed to sentence him to five years of probation and released him immediately to return home with his mother.

Ladd also ordered the teen, who will be 16 later this month, to attend school, have no unexcused absences or tardies, follow all the rules there as well as those set by his mother, to abide by the curfew set by his probation officer, cooperate with all referrals for substance abuse treatment and counseling and perform 100 hours of public service.

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