The Northeast Philadelphia man who accidentally shot to death the host of a Super Bowl party was sentenced yesterday to nine to 23 months in prison, with immediate eligibility for work-release.
The sentence, which will allow Ronald Parncutt, 50, to go to work but sleep in county jail, also requires him to pay $300 a month for five years to his victim's fiancee and 5-year-old daughter and serve three years' probation.
On June 29, Parncutt pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of involuntary manslaughter, possession of an instrument of crime and recklessly endangering another person in the death of his friend and neighbor Christopher Donaghy, 27.
The incarceration time, which the judge said could be replaced by house arrest after about seven months, is a much shorter period than the prosecutor had wanted.
Assistant District Attorney Beth McCaffery asked Common Pleas Judge Benjamin Lerner to impose a term of 18 to 36 months in prison followed by a lengthy probation period.
She argued that a sentence of house arrest, probation or work release would be "a slap on the wrist," especially given that the families of Parncutt and Donaghy live just two houses apart on Bleigh Avenue near Crispin Street.
"His reckless, grossly negligent and idiotic behavior led to Mr. Donaghy's death," McCaffery said before a courtroom packed with emotion-drenched family and friends of the victim and defendant.
His voice muffled by tears and grief, Parncutt profusely apologized to Donaghy's family. "I can't go to bed without seeing his face," he sobbed.
In sentencing Parncutt, a father and grandfather, Lerner said his job was to be "just and fair" rather than trying to satisfy both families.
He said Parncutt's clean record, his prompt decision to plead guilty without going to trial and that he had not set in motion the tragic chain of events factored into his decision.
Following the hearing, Parncutt's attorney, Brian McMonagle, said the sentence was fair. McCaffery said of Donaghy's family: "They would have preferred the sentence that I recommended, but they are not vindictive. They are satisfied."
The accident occurred Feb. 1 in the basement of the home that Donaghy shared with his fiancee, Michelle Surma.
Among the guests they invited over to watch the Super Bowl was Parncutt, with whom Donaghy regularly golfed and attended sporting events.
During the evening, Surma's brother, Christopher Surma, an off-duty Plymouth Township police officer, placed his personal Glock on the basement bar.
Parncutt picked it up. Michelle screamed "No!" Parncutt squeezed the trigger, thinking it was not real.
Donaghy was struck in the spinal cord and killed. His daughter Christina witnessed the shooting.
Christopher Surma, 29, is awaiting trial on a misdemeanor charge of recklessly endangering another person.
Yesterday, Michelle Surma, 27, told the judge how losing her fiance had changed her.
"I had never been afraid of anything - I'm a strong woman. Now, I'm afraid of everything, including dying and leaving our daughter without a parent."