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Tulsa Family Devastated By Reduction In Shooter's Sentence

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Preston Plum says a gun he was handling went off accidentally, killing Heather Garoutte. Preston Plum says a gun he was handling went off accidentally, killing Heather Garoutte.
Tulsa County Judge William Kellough reduced Plum's sentence by five years. Tulsa County Judge William Kellough reduced Plum's sentence by five years.
Heather Garoutte's family says they are devastated by the judge's decision to reduce the jury's sentence. Heather Garoutte's family says they are devastated by the judge's decision to reduce the jury's sentence.

By Lori Fullbright, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- A Tulsa family pleaded with a judge not to reduce a killer's sentence, but the judge knocked five years off the man's 15-year sentence. The judge says the age of the suspect - 16 at the time - was a big reason why.

However, the victim was also 16 when she was shot in the face, and now her family is devastated the judge went against the jury's sentence.

Heather Garoutte was 16 years old and visiting a former boyfriend, Preston Plum, on June 30th, 2007.  Records show he was smoking pot and messing with a gun that went off, shooting Heather in the face. 

He says it was an accident.

"He's claiming he had the gun in his hand when the hammer got stuck so he released it," said Nicole Hicks, Heather’s sister. 

Plum didn't do anything to help Heather. Instead, he took off to Okmulgee County where he emptied the gun and ditched the bullets in the trash, threw the gun in a pond and got rid of his bloody clothes in a third location. 

A jury convicted him of first degree manslaughter and sentenced him to 15 years. He was supposed to serve 85% of that before being released. But - just 11 months later - Plum was back in court, asking for the judge to shorten it.

 Heather's sister read a letter to the judge, asking him not to.

"I just wanted him to know everyone keeps talking about Preston, was only 16 but so was Heather when he killed her,” Nicole said.  “The 15 years the jury decided was fair, and we agreed upon. The judge has decided to go ahead and modify the sentence, so it's devastating to us."

The judge shortened Plum's sentence by five years. The District attorney had argued against it, saying Plum left Heather to die on the kitchen floor, and while Plum may be regretful he killed her, he's not remorseful.

The DA argued 15 years was lenient enough for taking a life.

Tulsa County Judge William Kellough said this was a unique case and the first one he's modified in nearly 50 jury trials. He said the ages and the circumstances of this crime were seared into his memory, and he believed shortening the sentence was in the best interest of justice.

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