Jurors heard two theories Monday about how a former Lompoc prison guard shot and killed his buddy after a night of partying, during opening arguments of the man’s second murder trial in the case.
Timothy McNally, 33, is charged with one count of second-degree murder in the March 8, 2012 death of his friend, Gary Bent, in a Lompoc hotel room.
The trial began this week in Santa Maria, after McNally’s first trial earlier this year ended in a hung jury, with seven of the jurors voting to convict for second-degree murder and five voting for an involuntary manslaughter conviction.
During Monday’s opening arguments, Deputy District Attorney Brandon Jebens told the jury of nine men and three women that McNally showed total disregard for firearm safety on the night of the alleged shooting that left the 32-year-old Bent dead.
As a correctional officer and former military infantryman, McNally was well schooled in how to safely handle firearms and even showed others how to properly handle a gun, Jebens said.
“He disregarded that knowledge when he thought it would be funny to point a loaded gun at his friend,” Jebens said, adding McNally never called 911 or rendered any help for Bent, who likely died within minutes of being shot.
“The evidence will show that (Timothy McNally) only cared about himself,” Jebens added.
McNally allegedly shot Bent once in the neck after the man went into the bathroom and was sick. The shot was an “instant kill,” according to court documents.
“Instead of caring for his friend, he grabbed a gun from his holster,” Jebens told the jury.
After allegedly texting a friend that he shot and killed Bent, McNally left his dead friend in the bathtub, closed the bathroom door and went to his father’s home on Pine Street in Lompoc, where he was eventually taken into custody.
Michael Scott, McNally’s attorney, told jurors during his opening arguments that his client accidentally shot Bent while playing with the handgun.
Scott said his client didn’t realize the gun was loaded, had a round in the chamber or that his finger was on the trigger when he began “waving it around gangster style.”
“(The gun) suddenly and completely went off,” Scott said. “An inch to the left and we wouldn’t be here.”
The defense attorney told the jury the most critical issue for them to decide at the conclusion of the trial is what his client’s state of mind was when the “gun discharged and he shot his friend.”
“What was in Mr. McNally’s mind when the gun went off,” Scott said.
Santa Barbara County forensic pathologist Dr. Robert Anthony testified that Bent suffered from an enlarged heart but was otherwise generally healthy.
“The thing that caused his demise was the bullet,” Anthony said.
If McNally is convicted of the second-degree murder charge, he faces a maximum of 15 years-to-life in state prison. An involuntary manslaughter conviction carries a minimum sentence of three years in prison.
Testimony is expected to resume in the case at
8:30 a.m. today in Santa Barbara County Superior Court, Dept. 8.