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Russian roulette trial averted

Becky Vargo • Jul 21, 2015 at 1:15 PM

Richard Mack Usher, 19, of Tallmadge Township will instead be sentenced on Nov. 4.

Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Sarah Matwiejczyk said they were in court to address some motions in the case on Friday when Usher made the decision to accept a plea agreement, rather than go to trial. The trial was scheduled to begin later this month.

Brandon Kuiper, 16, died two days after the March 6 incident in the basement of the Tallmadge Township home Usher shares with his family. Police said the two were with a group of teenage boys playing with a .22-caliber handgun that night. Drugs and alcohol were involved.

Usher shot Kuiper in the face during the incident, police said. The younger boy was taken to Spectrum Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids, where he died two days later.

Usher’s attorney, Kimberly Kotowski, declined to comment on the case, "due to confidentiality,” she said. During the court hearing, Kotowski said the plea was “being made as result of potential civil liability.”

The plea agreement calls for Usher to serve two years in prison on a felony firearm charge. Following that, he would serve at least one year and up to 15 years in prison for the manslaughter (death by weapon) charge. The six months he has already served in jail will apply toward that sentence.

Neighbors of the Leonard Road house where the shooting occurred said they were not surprised by the incident because the Usher boys were always shooting guns in the area.

“It’s been quiet since then," said one neighbor who asked not to be identified. “It’s sad that it came to that. It’s just too bad two lives are ruined.”

Kuiper’s mother declined to comment when contacted Monday afternoon at her home in the Tallmadge Meadows Mobile Home Park.

“I can’t talk right now,” she said before closing the door.

One of her neighbors, Kari VanDrunen, said she did not know the Kuipers, but she does know that bad things can happen when you mix alcohol, drugs and guns.

“I just don’t know what goes on in people's minds when they are drunk,” VanDrunen said. “When under the influence of drugs and alcohol, they are out of control. They really don’t know what they are doing.”

Members of Richard Usher’s family were at their home Monday afternoon, but they declined to comment about the case.

Usher remains in the Ottawa County Jail on a $350,000 bond.


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