MOUNT PLEASANT (KDKA) – A teenager accused in the fatal shooting of his friend earlier this year in Westmoreland County was in court Friday where he pleaded guilty to lesser charges.
“I don’t think anyone has paid quite as much as he has. I’ve had doctors have to give him drugs so he can sleep at night,” defense attorney Richard McCague said of his client’s emotional status.
John Burnsworth, 14, entered a plea Friday in the shooting death of 13-year-old James Robert Gustafson of Mount Pleasant.
“This is a catastrophe that was absolutely avoidable,” McCague said.
Initially charged with felony homicide, Burnsworth pleaded guilty Friday to misdemeanor involuntary manslaughter and a misdemeanor firearms charge.
On the stand, Burnsworth answered “yes” to the judge’s questions, including — did he understand he was admitting to shooting Gustafson back in March of 2016.
“At least Burnsworth gets the help he needs so he can be a good person. I really want justice for my son and people need to lock the guns up ’cause there’s more and more going on,” said Leah Smith Gustafson, the victim’s mother.
She was overcome with emotion during and after the hearing.
Burnsworth’s disposition hearing is coming up. He could be released, or he could remain in juvenile supervision.
The judge said she’d like to see some mental health evaluations before she makes any determinations regarding the young man’s fate.