Houchin

Houchin

Earlier this week, a Leitchfield man was sentenced to five years in prison for fatally shooting his daughter's boyfriend in December of 2017.

47-year-old Billy Joe Houchin was found guilty last month of reckless homicide in relation to the death of Stephen Waninger, an Evansville, Indiana man who was 31 years old at the time of his death, following a domestic altercation between the two on Dec. 29, 2017.

Houchin appeared before Circuit Court Judge Bruce Butler on Tuesday to be sentenced on the charge of reckless homicide, a Class D felony punishable by one to five years in prison.

At Houchin's trial, the jury was given the option of convicting Houchin of second-degree manslaughter (the charge he was originally indicted for) or reckless homicide should they find him guilty of a crime.

Court documents indicate that a conviction of manslaughter would have meant Houchin had shot Waninger deliberately and it resulted in his death; while the reckless homicide conviction means he acted with recklessness that resulted in Waninger’s death. Neither charge implies that Houchin killed Waninger purposefully.

Prior to the sentencing, Houchin's counsel, Louisville, Kentucky attorney Ashley L. Michael, requested the court give Houchin parole, rather than impose additional jail time.

Houchin had previously served nearly one year behind bars after being arrested on a second-degree manslaughter indictment warrant handed down in relation to Waninger's death in March of 2018, and, as such, he is already parole eligible, having served at least 15 percent of his total sentence.

Michael also noted that Houchin's reckless homicide conviction is his first felony offense, and he has no substance abuse issues.

The case against Houchin was prosecuted by First Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney for the 46th Circuit Robert L. Schaefer, who, on Tuesday, said he felt Houchin's release is not appropriate and that the Commonwealth recommended the full five-year sentence be imposed upon him.

At approximately 1 a.m. on Dec. 29, 2017, the Kentucky State Police and Grayson County Sheriff’s Office responded to the scene of a domestic disturbance and shooting that occurred at 4334 Grayson Springs Rd.

Leading up to the incident, Waninger had been living with his girlfriend, Houchin’s daughter, in Houchin’s residence on Grayson Springs Road, and, when the two became involved in a domestic altercation, Houchin attempted to intervene.

Police said Waninger and Houchin then got involved in a serious physical altercation, and, after a lengthy struggle between the two, Houchin fatally shot Waninger.

Before handing down a sentence, Butler permitted members of Waninger's family to address the court.

His sister, Chasity Waninger, spoke first. She said that she and her brother were born 13 months apart, and she misses him every day.

"I had him by my side every single day," she said. "When I first got the call on Dec. 29, I had to hear my mom scream, 'Joe killed him. Joe killed him.'"

Chasity Waninger said she also had to call her father to inform him that his first born son had been killed.

"If you've ever seen a broken man, look into my father's eyes," she said.

Chasity Waninger said that even though Houchin had hurt her and her family, they would continue to try to be humble.

Next, Stephen Waninger's grandmother, Mary Bunner, took the stand and displayed photos of the victim with members of his family.

"This is only part of the people whose lives you destroyed," she said to Houchin.

Bunner then showed the court a photo of Stephen Waninger's grave and said, "This is what you gave us."

She said Stephen Waninger's son lights a candle every night and prays for his father.

"If someone took the life of your grandchild tomorrow, I would get no satisfaction," she said. "I wouldn't wish this pain on anyone."

Lastly, Brian Waninger, the father of the victim, addressed the court and spoke directly to Houchin.

"You have my prayers," he said. "I think you have an anger that is unbelievable."

Brian Waninger said he struggled to understand how Houchin could wish to be released on parole when the maximum sentence he could receive for killing his son was five years.

"You are a violent man...and you want to be released today," he said. "What happens when you're turned loose?"

Brian Waninger said that anything less than the maximum jail sentence would be a "detriment to your community."

Houchin himself did not address the court or respond to any statements directed toward him, and no one other than his attorney testified on his behalf at the sentencing.

Butler opted to impose the five-year sentence - the maximum sentence for a Class D felony in Kentucky - as recommended by the jury, with the time he has already served behind bars counting toward his sentence. His sentencing was to begin immediately.

Butler also denied Houchin's request for immediate parole, and said that, to impose any sentence other than the maximum would depreciate what he had done.

However, because he has already served 15 percent of his sentence, Houchin will be eligible for parole after he is registered as an inmate with the state, according to Grayson County Circuit Court Clerk Stacie Blain.

After Houchin was sentenced, Michael then entered a request to be withdrawn as Houchin's counsel.