A judge ordered 23-year-old Jeremiah Tyner bound over for trial on a manslaughter charge in the shooting death of his girlfriend, Amanda Parker, following a preliminary hearing Thursday in Jasper County Circuit Court.
Parker, 40, was shot in the chest with a round from an AR-15 rifle that Tyner claims to have picked up and accidentally discharged while cleaning a Glock handgun in the early morning hours of June 29 inside a camper where the couple were staying at a property on County Road 270 near Carl Junction.
Detective Paul Ayres of the Jasper County Sheriff's Department, the lone witness called by Prosecutor Theresa Kenney to testify at the hearing, described Tyner as "pretty rambling in his speech" when Ayres interviewed him two to three hours after the shooting.
Ayres said Tyner told him he was cleaning some guns and had an AR-15 in his lap that was pointed in Parker's direction when it discharged. He said Tyner told him he was "surprised" when the gun fired.
"But he shot Amanda, right?" Kenney asked Ayres.
"Yes," the detective said.
"That's what he told you?"
Public defender Craig Lowe asked the detective on cross-examination if his client's surprise wasn't a strong indicator that the shooting was accidental, drawing an objection from Kenney, who felt the question was an attempt to get Ayres to speculate as to the defendant's intent.
Ayres acknowledged that he detected no indication during his interview that Tyner might have been intoxicated — either from alcohol or drugs — at the time of the shooting. He also acknowledged that accidental discharges of guns are not uncommon.
"In fact, there's several bullet holes at the sheriff's office from accidental discharges by deputies," Lowe suggested.
"That I wouldn't know," the detective replied.
According to a probable-cause affidavit filed in the case, Tyner told Ayres that he was cleaning a Glock handgun with a loaded AR-15 nearby when he picked up the rifle and pulled the trigger as it was pointed toward Parker.
Lowe asked the detective if it was necessary to pull the trigger of a Glock to disassemble the gun and clean it but not with AR-15 rifles, and Ayres acknowledged that was so.
"Someone not familiar with cleaning AR-15s might think they have to pull the trigger for that as well?" Lowe asked.
Ayres acknowledged that was possible but added that law enforcement officers are trained to point a weapon in a safe direction and determine if it is loaded before ever pulling its trigger.
Kenney asked the detective again on redirect exactly how Tyner said rifle fired.
"He said it was laying in his lap and it went off."
The detective said Tyner told him the discharge surprised him and then he saw the hole in Parker's chest. The affidavit states that he did not call for medical assistance but drove Parker to the emergency room where she was pronounced dead.
Lowe told the judge that the shooting could just as easily be viewed as an act of negligence and not manslaughter, prompting Kenney to point out that criminal negligence in a homicide is a lesser included offense and an option for a jury to decide.
The judge concurred with the prosecutor and ordered Tyner bound over on the charge of first-degree involuntary manslaughter and set his initial appearance in a trial division for Nov. 4.