Muted weeping filled Boone County Superior Court I Friday afternoon at the sentencing for Corey Crouch, who shot and killed Darla James last April in a rural Thorntown fight.

The court reporter passed around a box of tissues during a recess.

Crouch, 20, of Thorntown, pleaded guilty to reckless homicide and battery by means of a deadly weapon. Judge Matt Kincaid accepted his plea Friday, sentencing Crouch to four years at the Department of Corrections and five years suspended on supervised probation. A burglary charge was dismissed.

“He did not get what he deserved,” said James’ sister, Danielle Lowery, after the sentencing. “Boone County didn’t do their job. It’s straight (expletive).”

James died from a gunshot wound to the head April 22 after Crouch struck James’ husband, John, in the head with a 9 mm semi-automatic handgun, misfiring the weapon, according to the Boone County Sheriff’s Department reports. Crouch was attempting to put an end to a fight involving his sister, Myra Crouch, David Ehrie and John and Darla James in the 4000 block of North U.S. 52. The Jameses were dropping off four children at Ehrie’s home, and Ehrie claimed the couple was drunk. An argument grew physical.

Chris Burcham, public information officer for the BCSD, said Crouch went into the home, came out with a handgun, fired a shot into the ground, then struck John James in the head. The gun fired, killing Darla James. Two children witnessed the incident.

John James told the Reporter in an April 26 story that he didn’t believe the shooting to be an accident. “He was aiming his gun at me with his finger on the trigger guard,” John James said. “That’s when he backed up and took aim.”

On Friday, Boone County Prosecutor Todd Meyer called the incident a tragic accident caused by Crouch’s “stupidity.”

“I’m not going to sugarcoat this,” Meyer said. “The only explanation is (Crouch) exercised some really bad judgment. It was a dumb decision.”

When given an opportunity to speak, Crouch only had 10 words.

“I’d like to say I’m sorry for everything that happened,” he timidly said — twice, after Kincaid asked him to speak up and repeat himself.

“It wasn’t a long apology,” Kincaid said, “but there’s really nothing else he could have said.”

James’ mother and Lowery submitted a written statement that Kincaid reviewed during the recess.

“Darla’s mother and sister are angry,” Kincaid said upon returning from recess. “And they have a right to be.”

Meyer asked the court to accept the plea to avoid going to trial and forcing two of James’ children to testify about when they watched their mother die.

Kincaid said the court accepted the plea agreement to avoid an “uncertain, painful trial” and because it is in the best interest of justice.

Lowery does not believe justice was served.

“He shoots my sister and only gets four years?” she said, voice rich with anger. “And he’s still going to be around my niece and nephews. Boone County will hear about this.”

Crouch was ordered to report to the Boone County jail by 6 p.m. Friday.

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