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A day before his three-day jury trial was set to begin, a York County man pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter.
Brandon Bartlett, 23, was accused of fatally shooting former James City County Supervisor David W. Ware, Jr., 68, who he mistook for a deer in Bartlett’s backyard on the 1900 block of Lakeside Drive in December 2014.
The plea was unexpected for the York-Poquoson Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office and not part of a deal with the prosecution.
“We were prepared to go to trial at 9 o’clock the next morning, but he came in around 3 o’clock the day before and pleaded guilty,” York-Poquoson Commonwealth’s Attorney Ben Hahn said.
On Dec. 19, 2014, Ware was hunting a fox that had been killing chickens in the area when he passed through Bartlett’s backyard, according to court documents.
Bartlett, who had been unloading hunting equipment from his truck, heard noise in the yard and saw “white” in the marsh. Thinking he had seen two deer fighting, Bartlett grabbed a loaded shotgun and shot into the marsh.
Bartlett and his girlfriend, who was present at the time of the shooting, discovered Ware still alive and suffering from a gunshot wound to his chest, documents show. Bartlett called 911; Ware died before authorities arrived.
A sentencing hearing for Bartlett, who received a $25,000 bond 10 days after the shooting, is set for 1 p.m. July 21. in York-Poquoson Circuit Court.