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Teen gets 2 years' probation in fatal shooting

Friday, Feb. 8, 2013 11:24 AM
Last updated Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013 1:30 AM
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A 14-year-old Grovetown boy who shot and killed a 13-year-old girl on Halloween was sentenced to two years’ probation Friday morning in Columbia County Juvenile Court.

Christian Neibel, 14, leaves the courtroom with his father after being sentenced to 24 months' probation in the shooting death of 13-year-old Kristen Burnette.  JIM BLAYLOCK/STAFF
Christian Neibel, 14, leaves the courtroom with his father after being sentenced to 24 months' probation in the shooting death of 13-year-old Kristen Burnette.

In addition, Christian Neibel must undergo continued counseling and attend the juvenile court’s class on decision-making, as sentenced by Judge Doug Flanagan.

Juvenile Court prosecutor Rodney Brown said the shooting of Kristen Burnette, 13, in her home was accidental.

Neibel and two other teens were at Burnette’s home that evening, with no adults present, to watch a movie, Brown said. When the movie ended, Neibel and another boy started “milling through the house” while Burnette sat in the dining room at a laptop computer.

Neibel and the boy found a 12-gauge shotgun lying on top of a gun case in the master bedroom of the home, and after checking it thought the gun was unloaded, Brown said. The other boy went to the bathroom, and heard a loud “boom.”

That sound was the shotgun discharging as Neibel pointed it at Burnette and pulled the trigger, Brown said. An autopsy later determined she died from being struck in the head by three pellets of buckshot.

Burnette’s mother, Ashley Lunsford, agreed that the shooting was unintentional.

“I know this was just an accident,” she said. “I’d like to see him go through some therapy and counseling, and maybe some firearms training to better understand how firearms work.”

Neibel’s attorney, Adam King, described the boy as “utterly devastated” by the death of his friend in what he called “a tragic, tragic accident.”

“He was playing with the gun. He shouldn’t have been,” King said, adding that Neibel had admitted to the shooting and taken responsibility from the start.

“This is a good young man,” King said. “This is a good child.... He’s never been in trouble, he’s never been arrested” and deserves a second chance, he said.

“I’m deeply sorry,” Neibel said.

“Unfortunately, this is not the first case the court has had like this for the last year and a half or two years,” said Flanagan. “This case, like the other cases, has to do with unsecured weapons in people’s homes.”

Burnette’s death followed the March 29, 2012 fatal shooting of Eleanor “Elle” Kelly, 13, in Harlem, by a 14-year-old boy, and the shooting death of 14-year-old Alana May Calahan in Harlem Jan. 31, 2011.

Flanagan also instructed Brown to arrange for Neibel to visit schools to talk about the consequences of improper use of firearms.

“I think other people his age will be a lot better hearing it from him,” he said.

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r 02/09/13 - 09:49 am
The families read this people.

The boy as gone to court faced his crime and been charged. Gun safety needs to become important to everyone I agree. None of you where there and none of you most likely know these families and there is a big difference in knowledge based on what you are exposed to. If I am around guns I may know and understand them if I am not then I have no clue how to use them and not every 14 year old boy has parents with guns in the house. Remember you never know when your tragedy will be plastered on the AC for everyone to discuss!!!

itsanotherday1 02/09/13 - 10:15 am
14 is old enough to be alone

14 is old enough to be alone for a few hours.

@ Specsta. Yes, in THIS case a child was treated as a child because the circumstances were clear. In cases where there is malicious intent, or a history of violent or antisocial behavior, the parameters are much different.

I hope this boy can compartmentalize his heartbreak and remorse. He will carry this burden with him for the rest of his life. Just a sad situation for everyone connected to it.

itsanotherday1 02/09/13 - 10:29 am
r, I diagree with your

r, I diagree with your premise. The comments section is "the court of public opinion". If one doesn't want to get offended, they shouldn't read them. I know should me or my family be involved in tragic circumstances, the last thing I want to do is go read what other people are saying.

Sean Moores has a pretty definite line you can't cross; and if these comments are still here, he is OK with them.

glengarryross 02/09/13 - 10:28 am
Wow how things have changed....

Can you imagine how different this comment section would be if this child was of African-American descent.....?

itsanotherday1 02/09/13 - 10:34 am
Why is that glengaryross?

Do you think if all other circumstances (everything but skin color) were equal, and I mean ALL; that people would feel differently?

allhans 02/09/13 - 10:36 am
I would think that if an

I would think that if an adult had been home the young man would not have been wandering around looking in places where he would see the gun.

LBunnies32 02/09/13 - 11:03 am
Visit schools to talk about the dangers...

My son died in a car accident when he was 16. The driver, also 16, was charged with his death and another boys death that was in the car. She was ordered to talk at school about the dangers of reckless driving, but she refused to do it. After several months of her refusal she was sent to a place where they live and have school, etc. My point being that, she refused to terms of her release, was sent to a place, and yet still to this day at age 25/26, I see her mug shot posted for being arrested. I just hope this young man, does what he is ordered to do and changes his life, unlike the girl who drove recklessly the night my son died!

Willow Bailey
Willow Bailey 02/09/13 - 08:01 pm
LBunnies32, my condolences on

LBunnies32, my condolences on the loss of your son.

MarinerMan 02/11/13 - 11:16 am
Maybe I'm Missing Something Here...I Doubt It

When I was fourteen, going across the street to watch a movie, I would have NEVER walked around the house, especially into the parents bedroom, nosing around. Come on people !! The gun was on TOP of a gun cabinet. While it was not locked up, it was on TOP of the gun cabinet. The kid had NO business TOUCHING the gun ! You may call it an accident if you want to, but he was still doing something he had no business doing. And why in the hell would you point a gun @ someone, and pull the stupid trigger ????!!!!! Thoughts and prayers to the girl's family. Parents should never have to bury their child.

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