By NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Thomas Ward has pleaded guilty to culpable negligence, manslaughter, in the 2010 death of Anna Catherine McCoy.
District Attorney Trent Kelley’s office announced the plea Friday morning, about two months after Ward, 25, of Saltillo went on trial in May on charges of depraved-heart murder. That ended in a mistrial.
McCoy was killed by a gunshot on April 15, 2010, when she was a 20-year-old soccer player at Itawamba Community College. The shooting took place at Ward’s home in Saltillo.
Ward and his attorney, Victor Fleitas of Tupelo, insisted at the time of her death it was a tragic accident, not murder.
District Attorney Investigator Paul Howell said Ward entered the guilty plea Friday before Circuit Judge James Roberts. Ward is being held in the Lee County Adult Jail following the plea.
Ward will be sentenced at a later date. He faces a minimum of two years and a maximum of 20 years in prison.
Around 10 p.m. on April 15, 2010, Ward’s new .40-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun discharged and the bullet entered McCoy’s face, close to the right corner of her mouth. She was reclined on Ward’s bed and the bullet went through her skull, exiting at the left top of her head.
A mistrial was declared in Ward’s trial after the 12-member jury couldn’t agree on depraved-heart murder, manslaughter by culpable negligence or acquittal after deliberating for more than 12 hours over two days. If convicted of depraved-heart murder, Ward would have faced up to life in prison.
A sentencing date is expected to be announced some time next week.