The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

December 4, 2012

Dad sentenced in son’s death

SOMERSET — A former Somerset County man stood in court Tuesday and said he was swearing off guns for life after admitting he accidentally shot and killed his son in September 2011.

Robert W. Duda, 44, of Coal Lick Run, Uniontown, received five years probation following a plea to involuntary manslaughter in Somerset County Court.

“I want no more to do with guns,” he told Somerset County President Judge John M. Cascio.

Duda was initially arrested in October 2011. State police said he was cleaning a .380 caliber handgun in his living room in order to sell it when his 14-year-old son, Bryan, began joking.

“Shoot me, Dad. Shoot me,” the boy said, according to a court document.

That’s when Duda pointed the gun and fired one round, striking his son on the right side, below his underarm.

He drove his son to Somerset Hospital, where he died later.

“It’s hard to explain what happened here other than to say it was accident,” Cascio said. “It’s a tragedy no one should have to face.”

Duda, who has no criminal record, also must perform 100 hours of community service work, pay a $500 fine and receive counseling.

He could have been sentenced to five years in state prison.

“I believe the court as well as the district attorney’s office recognized that this was a tragedy and he was sentenced accordingly,” defense attorney Brian Salisbury of Uniontown said.

“It’s been a long year for Mr. Duda and his family,” he said. “He’s still going to have to live with the tragedy.”

Troopers said the day of the shooting Duda and another man had earlier gone to Mountain Man Sport Shop on Garrett Shortcut Road to sell guns.

Duda, who now lives in Fayette County, told Cascio that he has since gotten rid of his gun license.

“It was apparent as he stood at the podium that he suffers from a tremendous amount of grief and guilt,” District Attorney Lisa Lazzari-Strasiser said. “The man will never be the same. His family will never be the same.

“If you choose to handle firearms then you have to accept the consequences of negligent and reckless behavior,” she said. “You can never exercise enough care or safety when you have firearms present.”

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