Woman whose shot in the air killed friend pleads guilty

An Augusta woman who fired a gun into the air during a July Fourth celebration, killing a friend, pleaded guilty today.

Judge Michael N. Annis sentenced Katato C. Utley to serve three years in prison and an additional 12 years on probation.

As a condition of the probation, Ms. Utley, 24, will have to perform 1,000 hours of community service. Judge Annis told Ms. Utley the service should involve, when possible, talking to others about the importance of gun safety.

Ms. Utley insisted that what happened on Hicks Street was an accident. The bullet she fired into the air came down and fatally wounded Karen Franklin, 43.

The two women were close friends, and until the fatal shooting so were their families, according to those who spoke at today's hearing in Richmond County Superior Court.

The victim’s family suspected that there was more to what happened, but the grand jury chose to indict Ms. Utley for manslaughter instead of murder, Judge Annis said.

It was stupid, reckless conduct that cost a woman her life, a fact even more tragic because the two were friends, the judge said.

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