A Harlem teen accused of shooting his 13-year-old friend to death was given the maximum sentence Friday at a Columbia County Juvenile Court hearing.
Zachary Provance, 14, was sentenced by Judge Douglas Flanagan to serve the maximum confinement allowed. He was remanded to the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice, which will evaluate and decide the length of Provance’s confinement, Flanagan said.
“When somebody dies, someone goes to jail,” said Flanagan, who estimates Provance’s sentence will be at least two years.
Provance admitted to accidentally shooting Eleanor Grace “Elle” Kelly, 13, when they and two other teens were in Provance’s Kenner Street home March 29, preparing for a Harlem Middle School dance.
Authorities say Provance was showing off his father’s .38-caliber pistol. As he tried to uncock the gun, it fired and hit Elle in the face. The bullet lodged in her brain, and she died the next day.
Provance was charged with involuntary manslaughter, reckless conduct and possession of a firearm by a person younger than 18.
“I’m sorry all this is happening,” Provance said at the hearing, adding that he wished he could reverse his actions. “Elle was a good friend of mine.”
Provance and Elle played together in the Harlem Middle School band.
Defense attorney Michael Spence said Provance has trouble sleeping and has suffered from depression since the shooting.
“He has expressed extreme remorse,” Spence said.
The victim’s family said they don’t believe that the shooting was an accident, citing messages Provance posted on and later deleted from her Facebook page, including one that said Provance wanted to pin down Elle and not let her up. Through tears, the teen’s mother and older sisters expressed their anger at Provance and pain from losing Elle, their youngest triplet.
“He has his life still, and he’s still breathing,” her older sister said.
Several people spoke on Provance’s behalf, stating he was a “good kid,” respectful and very intelligent. Many expressed their condolences to the girl’s family.
Provance’s father, Richard, said his son made a terrible mistake, but would never intentionally hurt someone. He said he regarded Elle as one of his own children.
Richard Provance, 54, lost custody of his son at an April 4 hearing after police found marijuana plants in a closet and guns when searching the home. He was charged with manufacture and possession of drugs and with possession of a gun during the commission of a crime but released after posting bond.
Provance said his son’s friends often came to his house to watch TV or play video games but were never exposed to drugs or alcohol.
“It’s a no-win situation,” Flanagan said. “This is what happens when people don’t secure firearms.”