Parents decry probated sentence for teen who shot their son

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by MATT GOODMAN and JIM DOUGLAS

Bio | Email | Follow: @wfaajdouglas

WFAA

Posted on January 27, 2014 at 8:34 PM

Updated Monday, Jan 27 at 9:12 PM

The teenager indicted in the accidental fatal shooting of his 18-year-old friend pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide Monday morning and was sentenced to five years' probation. 

But that sentence doesn't sit well with the victims' parents.

Michael Bryce Underwood was 17 when he was indicted in October, about six weeks after Denton Guyer student Nate Maki was shot in the head and killed. The two had been camping in a rural area of Montague County about three miles south of Bowie and were planning to go dove hunting the next morning. 

Underwood was taken into custody at the scene and initially charged with underage drinking. The case was forwarded to a grand jury, which added the indictment for manslaughter. He pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of criminally negligent homicide. 

Montague County authorities always classified the shooting as accidental –– a neighbor who heard the shot and ran to help told News 8 that it appeared Underwood “was swinging (the gun) on an animal and swung too far when he pulled the trigger.” 

“It’s a very tragic accident,” said Sheriff Paul Cunningham at the time of the incident. 

But Maki's mother, Bonnie Tatera, told News 8 that the probated sentence makes the family's pain even worse. They didn't even think such a punishment was possible.

The terms of the probation require Underwood to finish school and speak at a gun safety class before the year’s end. If he violates his probation, he will be sent to jail for an automatic two-year term, said Paige Williams, district attorney for the 97th Judicial District, which includes Montague County. 

Tatera said she inserted the gun safety provision even though she disagreed with probation.

"Honestly, I wish he would've gotten some time to actually sit and think about what he had done, whether it was an accident or not," she said.

Maki's father, Harold Maki, told News 8 from his home in Wisconsin that the plea agreement was "less than a slap on the wrist."

He said Bryce Underwood told changing stories of the incident, and that the whole truth may never be known.

Maki was a well-liked senior at Denton Guyer High School who played fullback for the state championship-winning football team. His teammates dedicated their 31-14 victory over San Antonio Brennan to his memory.

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