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2010 - Fatal hunting accident withdraws guilty plea; will take chances in court

January 19, 2012

By Matthew Kemeny, The Patriot-News

A Perry County withdraws guilty plea; will take chances in court

A Duncannon man accused of accidentally shooting and killing his hunting partner with an illegally owned gun in November 2010 will take his chances in court after he withdrew his guilty plea last week.

Kenneth D. Mutzabaugh, 53, told a judge he was not the person who shot 53-year-old Hugh "Jim" McCord of Middle Paxton Township while the pair were turkey hunting in Wheatfield Township, his former attorney, Keith Kendall, said.

The trial starts Jan. 26 in Perry County Court. Jury selection concluded this week.

Mutzabaugh pleaded guilty in October, where he admitted to mistaking McCord for a turkey on Paradise Road. He was supposed to be sentenced Jan. 9 before he changed his plea to not guilty, District Attorney Chad Chenot said.

The plea deal reached with prosecutors included a jail sentence of 22 months. Chenot called it a "fairly lenient deal." If convicted, Mutzabaugh could get up to 5 years in prison, a 15-year revocation of his hunting license and $10,000 in fines.

Mutzabaugh switched attorneys and is now being represented by Christopher Basner. Basner's Newport office phone was disconnected Thursday.

Mutzabaugh is charged with the game commission violation of killing or injuring a human while hunting, a first degree misdemeanor, and as a person prohibited from possessing a firearm, a second degree felony. The gun violation is a result of Mutzabaugh's 1980 conviction for possession with intent to deliver marijuana.

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