Mother sentenced for allowing gun access

BEDFORD – A Bedford County woman faces three weeks to a year in jail for allowing her teenage son to freely carry a handgun used in his friend’s 2012 accidental shooting death.

Police said Susan Bonner, 41, of Everett frequently left handguns accessible and on July 19 allowed her son, then 15 years old, to take a .38-caliber revolver to 15-year-old Cole McConoughey’s West Providence Township house. There, her son and McConoughey met with Neal Hammond, also 15.

“[Her son] said the guns he carries are his and that his mom doesn’t care,” police said in an affidavit.

The boy left the gun in a drawer at McConoughey’s house while his friends played, police said. That evening, McConoughey drew the pistol and played with its cylinder, loading and unloading bullets.

“Let’s play Russian roulette,” McConoughey allegedly said before he fired the gun – which he apparently believed to be empty – in Hammond’s direction.

A bullet struck Hammond in the right temple. He died later that night at a Johnstown hospital.

Prosecutors initially charged McConoughey as an adult, but his involuntary manslaughter case was later moved to juvenile court after Hammond’s family agreed to reduce the charges.

Bonner, who told police she locks her rifles away but regularly leaves handguns in unlocked drawers, was the only adult charged in the case. Her son often took the revolver on fishing trips, she told investigators.

“[The boy] related that his mom trusts him with a gun,” state police said in an affidavit after interviewing the son. “He related that his mom usually lets him take it, but it depends on who he is going to be with or where he is going.”

Charged in October with reckless endangerment, Bonner pleaded guilty two months ago.

District Attorney Bill Higgins said Bonner showed remorse throughout the case.

Mirror Staff Writer Ryan Brown is at 946-7457.