August 10, 2013

Man pleads in Noxen shooting

BY ROBERT L. BAKER (Staff writer) | Published: August 10, 2013 |

The Tunkhannock man who fired a gun at a carload of people in Wyoming County faces a maximum sentence of 28 years in state prison and a $45,000 fine for his actions.

Wade Douglas Wright, 43, Copper Kettle Park, pleaded guilty to four counts of reckless endangerment and one of aggravated assault when a bullet from the gun Mr. Wright fired Aug. 12, 2012, struck passenger Mary Josephine McClaine of Clifford. The family had been looking at a windmill under construction.

District Attorney Jeff Mitchell said Friday that Ms. McClaine required hospitalization and has made a substantial recovery. He noted that at the time sentencing takes place, restitution also would be sought.

Mr. Wright was to plead in July, but at the last minute his attorney, Demetrius Fannick, said his client was prepared to go to trial.

On Friday, Mr. Wright entered the guilty plea. Mr. Fannick was present in the courtroom with Mr. Wright but did not speak to the case.

According to court documents, Mr. Wright admitted firing rounds from the pistol toward an occupied Jeep Wrangler he believed to be trespassing on his property.

The owner and driver of the Jeep, Thomas Anthony Weeks, told authorities he had just purchased the vehicle and took his wife, nephew and two sisters-in-law for a ride to see the Mehoopany windmill project, an 88-wind turbine farm developed by BP Wind Energy, and whose first windmill was completed Tuesday.

Mr. Weeks said he had taken a dozen images of the windmill site and, after taking the final picture, everyone got into his Jeep and traveled back down the mountain toward Noxen.

Mr. Weeks and his passengers had an encounter with a man, later identified as Mr. Wright, who told them, “You better be going.”

Mr. Weeks began to drive away but noted in the rearview mirror the man who had just confronted them was removing a pistol from his holster and aimed it toward the vehicle as he drove away.

Mr. Weeks told authorities he remembered one round being fired that missed. After a second shot, he felt a bump in the back of his car seat.

He then heard his sister-in-law yell, “Oh, my God,” while slumping over into another relative’s arms.

Judge Russell Shurtleff said the felony count of aggravated assault “with an apparent indifference to the value of human life” carries a maximum sentence of 20 years and a $25,000 fine, and each misdemeanor count of reckless endangerment carried a maximum sentence of two years in state prison and a $5,000 fine.

He said that Mr. Wright would be sentenced at a later date.

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