WARREN - A 21-year-old Farmdale man - accused of killing his best friend during a drinking spree in November while a third acquaintance stood by - pleaded guilty Monday to misdemeanor charges.
Ryan Wrightsman, 4413 state Route 87, is now due to be released from Trumbull County Jail in about a week since he is getting credit for time served behind bars since the Nov. 1 shooting death of Joshua Soles, 20, of 7480 state Route 7, Vernon.
The shooting occurred at Soles' home while a third man, identified by prosecutors as Zack Davis, witnessed the incident.
Tribune Chronicle photos / R. Michael Semple
Robert Zell of Kinsman, left, uncle to shooting victim Joshua Soles, puts his arm around Barbara Soles, mother of the victim, Monday afternoon at Trumbull County Common Pleas Judge Peter Kontos’ courtroom.
Joshua Soles was killed Nov. 1 during a drinking spree among three friends.
Wrightsman pleaded guilty to a bill of information charging him with misdemeanor charges of negligent homicide and using weapons while intoxicated. He was initially charged with murder, but indicted on a manslaughter charge.
Common Pleas Judge Peter Kontos sentenced Wrightsman to the maximum six months on each charge, running the sentences consecutively, but suspending four of the months for a total of eight months.
The judge also placed Wrightsman on five years probation and ordered him to pay $8,978 within a year to the Soles family to cover the cost of burial. Wrightsman also was given permission to serve some of the probation time at a Sarasota, Fla., facility for clients who have suffered traumatic brain injuries. Wrightsman suffered severe head injuries in a car crash in Cortland two years ago.
''I'm sorry. He was my best friend. It shouldn't have went this way,'' Wrightsman told Soles' mother Barbara in court. Members of each family have known each other for several years.
Assistant county prosecutor Chris Becker told the judge that the plea was one not normally pursued by his office, but was carefully negotiated over the last two months with Wrightsman's attorney, Gregory Robey of Cleveland.
Kontos also said that he had to be convinced that the plea agreement was an appropriate resolution to the case and required assurances that Soles' parents and Trumbull Prosecutor Dennis Watkins agreed with the plea and punishment.
''None of us will know the anguish, or the remorse or loss suffered here. We have a young man taken away from his family before his time,'' Kontos said.
Although she signed off on the agreement partly to avoid a trial, Soles' mother said she really didn't have closure after the court proceeding. ''There are still unanswered questions. It was a bad situation,'' she said. ''I'd like Ryan to get his life straightened out and get treatment for alcohol abuse. I would have liked to know more facts. But no time will bring Josh back.''
Becker explained that a factual account of the episode still isn't completely clear.
While the trio was drinking and smoking marijuana, Soles put a loaded rifle to his head threatening to kill himself and daring Wrightsman to help him pull the trigger.
Davis called 911, at first reporting it as a suicide. But he changed the story later. Becker said it isn't clear if Wrightsman tried to disarm Soles and the gun went off in a struggle.
He said the coroner was prepared to testify that Soles' arm wasn't long enough to reach the trigger of the rifle. But Robey also was prepared to rebut that testimony and other state forensic evidence with his own experts.
Soles' mother delivered an impact statement before the sentencing, explaining how she felt about loosing her son:
''I have moved out of my house of 24 years, because of what has happened there. I can't make make my home there anymore. I would have to walk across the place where Joshua lost his life, or should I say where Joshua's life was taken. I miss Joshua so much, that the pain cannot really be put into words,'' she said.