A man who fatally shot a fleeing teenager who had broken into his motor home on Christmas Eve 1995 has been sentenced to one year in prison.
Kenneth Leroy Hixson, 55, sobbed Friday as he told Benton County Superior Court Judge Dennis Yule he didn’t mean to kill the 14-year-old Clarkston runaway. “I did not intend for this to happen,” said Hixson. “God knows that, and I stand by this to this day.”
Hixson entered an Alford plea in November to a second-degree manslaughter charge in the death of Wesley Dale Highley. That means Hixson doesn’t admit guilt but concedes a jury likely would find him guilty.
The one-year prison sentence handed down by Yule was three months more than Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller had asked for.
Defense attorney Jim Egan said Hixson was afraid the night Highley broke into his parked motor home in Kennewick. But Yule said fear alone was not justification for gunning down the fleeing youth.
“Wesley Highley was a 14-year-old boy,” Yule said. “He was also a burglar. But he was a 14-year-old burglar, and for his burglary, he paid the ultimate penalty: his life.”
Yule said while Hixson may have feared for his and his wife’s safety when he first confronted Highley in the trailer, safety was clearly not a factor when Highley turned and ran away.
Highley was shot once through the back from about 45 feet away. The .380-caliber bullet severed the boy’s spinal cord, killing him instantly, police said.
Egan said he hasn’t yet decided whether he plans to appeal the sentence.