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Man claims fatal shooting was accident

October 9, 2012 News Extra

EVANS CITY — Larry Karnes apparently knew the odds — and feared them.

He is an old man in ill health; his grandson was a 200-pound-plus, 19-year-old with a mean streak.

Karnes had come up on the losing end of previous family fights. He carried the scars to prove it.

There was a price to pay, after all, for saying “no” to the younger man.

But Karnes, this time, sought to break the cycle. When the latest argument escalated and the teenager’s temper rose, the elderly man went for what he hoped would be the equalizer.

The gun was meant as a warning. Instead, it went off. Accidentally.

That’s how the 76-year-old Karnes recounted for state police investigators the life-and-death events Sept. 28 at his home in Connoquenessing, according to testimony at his preliminary hearing Tuesday.

District Judge Wayne Seibel at the end of the 35-minute hearing ordered Karnes held for court on a general count of homicide.

The defendant, who remains in the Butler County Prison without bail, is accused of fatally shooting Austin Riddell, his grandson, at their house on Sunset Drive.

Bespeckled with gray, balding hair and a bit of a stooped posture, Karnes hardly looked like a killer as he sat at the defense table next to his attorney, public defender Terri Schultz.

He kept his head down throughout the testimony. Just two rows behind were family members — wife, two daughters and a granddaughter.