SKOWHEGAN — Jeremy Erving, of St. Albans, looked straight at the judge, unblinking and emotionless, Wednesday morning in Somerset County Superior Court as he changed his plea from not guilty to guilty in the shooting death of his uncle in April 2016.

“I’m here to take responsibility,” Erving, 26, told Justice Robert Mullen. “I cost a good man his life. I don’t know why it happened.”

With that, Mullen sentenced Jeremy Erving to 27 years in the state prison for shooting his uncle, 53-year-old Randy Erving, once in the head as the man slept in his bed on McNally Road in St. Albans. The two men had been drinking heavily all day, according to police reports.

Jeremy Erving was equally emotionless as two of his uncle’s daughters cried their way through victim impact statements delivered live in the courtroom.

“His life was stolen from me. Why?” said daughter Amanda Kenney. “His love was unconditional. My dad was a good, loving man.”

Her sister, Heidi Hartsgrove, also tearfully told the court that her father would call out “Hey, kid!” when he saw her coming, adding that everything reminds her of him every day.

“It’s heartbreaking. It’s not fair that I have to sit in the grass and talk to a stone,” she said. “He was a great, kind, compassionate man. He was just such a good person.”

Jeremy Erving had pleaded not guilty previously to the murder charge and not criminally responsible for his uncle’s death because of mental illness. Jury selection in his murder trial had been scheduled for Thursday, with the trial due to begin Feb. 26.

All that changed Wednesday with the change of plea to guilty under what is known as a Rule 11 hearing.

At a Rule 11 hearing, a defendant is allowed to enter a guilty or no-contest plea after a judge asks a series of questions designed to ensure that the defendant is entering the plea willingly and is waiving his right to a trial voluntarily.

Jeremy Erving will begin serving his prison time immediately.

Erving, dressed for court Wednesday in jail-house gray shirt and pants, his legs shackled over orange shower shoes, told the judge he understood the provisions of Rule 11, acknowledging that he was giving up his right to a trial and was doing so voluntarily.

“I don’t know why it happened,” he said, adding that he drank himself into a blackout the day he shot and killed the man with whom he had been so close.

His court-appointed lawyers, Peter Barnett and Philip Mohlar, also stood to say they had spoken with Erving and were satisfied with the sentencing agreement.

Assistant Attorney General Bud Ellis told Justice Mullen that if the case had gone to trial, the prosecution would have presented evidence that Erving had told family and friends that he had just done something terrible.

“I’ve hurt the person that I cared for the most,” he reportedly told his mother, appearing shocked, driving his uncle’s truck, drinking his uncle’s brand of beer and in the company of his uncle’s dog. “The gunshot was so loud. … I really effed up. I snapped and I’m going to hell,” Ellis said Erving told his mother.

Police stopped Jeremy Erving about 1 a.m. the next morning in Randy Irving’s truck in the Penobscot County town of Dexter on suspicion of operating under the influence, according to an affidavit by Detective Hugh Landry, of the Maine State Police.

An Intoxilyzer test later determined that the younger Erving’s blood-alcohol level was 0.24 — three times the legal limit for driving.

Also in the truck was a loaded .30-30 rifle, which Erving later said he had stolen from the home of another relative; and Randy Erving’s dog, according to police. When his girlfriend and her father went to the Penobscot County Jail to bail him out, Erving told them he had shot his uncle in the back of the head and he didn’t know why he did it, according to the police affidavit and recounted in court Wednesday by Ellis.

Randy Erving’s body was found in the bedroom of his McNally Road home.

Jeremy Erving told police that Randy Erving was his best friend and that they drank together nearly every day. His girlfriend had dropped him off at Randy Erving’s home around noon the day of the shooting, and the two drank together until Randy Erving decided to go to bed around 7 p.m., the affidavit said.

Jeremy Erving then reportedly broke into the home of another relative, stole Twisted Tea, Budweiser beer and the rifle, and returned to his uncle’s house. Police later inspected the relative’s house on nearby Todd’s Corner Road and confirmed a rear window had been broken and the owner was missing a .30-30 rifle.

Jeremy Erving told police he returned to his uncle’s house after the break-in and “asked for a cigarette at some point and Randy gave him one,” according to the affidavit.

He told police that he drank a few more beers and didn’t remember much other than “a bang and a barrel” before he was arrested for OUI in Dexter early the following morning.

Deputies from the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office visited Randy Erving’s home that Friday morning at 50 McNally Road in St. Albans and confirmed he was dead, the affidavit said. His body was found in his bed, and an empty .30-30 bullet cartridge was found nearby on the floor.

An autopsy from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner confirmed that he had died from a single gunshot wound to the head.

Jeremy Erving finally showed some emotion in the end Wednesday, when proceedings were adjourned and two women and a young man, apparent family members, came to hug him before he was led off to prison.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow

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