AUBURN — A Connecticut man on Tuesday pleaded no contest to manslaughter stemming from the fatal shooting of an egg farm worker in Turner last year.
Michael Warbin, 45, of Franklin, Conn., was sentenced to spend 45 days in jail. He was sentenced to three years in prison, with most of that time suspended. Following his release, he will be on probation for four years.
He also was ordered to perform 500 hours of community service that is focused on firearm safety.
Warbin was charged a year ago with manslaughter for shooting a worker at the former DeCoster egg farm. He had been free on a $20,000 unsecured bond. The Class A felony was punishable by up to 30 years in prison.
On Tuesday, Warbin appeared in Androscoggin County Superior Court after reaching agreement with prosecutors on a sentence. Justice MaryGay Kennedy entered a finding of guilty after reviewing the facts of the case that were not in dispute.
Warbin shot and killed Manuel Adame, 57, on Aug. 19, 2013, using a Smith and Wesson rifle equipped with a scope, according to police.
The shooting occurred at Moark egg farm, formerly owned by Jack DeCoster and now owned by Land O’Lakes. Adame had been a worker at the farm for 15 years, Assistant Attorney General John Alsop said Tuesday.
According to Alsop, Warbin was shooting a .22-caliber rifle to kill stray chickens inside one of the farm’s chicken barns that was being cleaned. The barns were roughly 600 feet long and equipped with doors at both ends. Large, noisy fans in the barns made it difficult to hear. While Warbin was at one end of barn No. 51, Adame apparently had been at the other end, gathering stray chickens.
At about 3:30 p.m. that day, a farm worker found Adame clinging to a guardrail in a different barn roughly 400 feet from barn No. 51. He was unresponsive and had apparently collapsed there.
A blood trail led from one barn to the other, suggesting Adame had dragged himself to the other barn after he had been shot through the chest and neck, the bullet having entered his left shoulder and exited from his right shoulder. It severed substantial arteries and veins. Adame died from blood loss in an ambulance at the scene, Alsop said.
Warbin had been hired to rid barn No. 51 of rodents by baiting them. He normally used a rifle to shoot pellets but had used .22-caliber bullets that day, Alsop said.
He had offered to assist one of the farm workers in ridding the barn of loose chickens by using his rifle loaded with live rounds.
“No notice was given to the authorities and no permission was sought to do this,” Alsop said.
Warbin shot as many as 60 rounds in all, Alsop said. When he was done, he left the barn to go elsewhere on the farm. A short time later, Adame was found.
A farm supervisor would have testified at trial that he concluded Adame went into barn No. 51 after a 2:30 p.m. break to help catch loose chickens in that barn. Adame likely didn’t hear the gunshots due to the din from the fans, Alsop said.
Because Warbin was using a rifle loaded with .22-caliber rounds, he should have taken extra precautions, Alsop said.
Alsop said Warbin didn’t know Adame and wasn’t under the influence of alcohol at the time of the shooting. Warbin was cooperative with police and remorseful, Alsop said. Warbin told police he never saw anyone else in the barn while he was shooting.
Prosecutors said the circumstances surrounding the shooting coupled with Warbin’s clean criminal record led them to recommend the sentence agreed to by Warbin. Adame’s family, which remains in Mexico, was made aware of the plea agreement and found it acceptable, Alsop said.
“At some level, it could be considered a freak accident,” Alsop said.
Justice Kennedy told Warbin he would be barred from ever having a firearm or ammunition.
“I understand that given your line of work, that’s a very serious consequence for you,” she said.
In August, a survivor of Adame sued Warbin in Androscoggin County Superior Court, complaining that Warbin was negligent in his actions. The company that hired him, C & M Property Management of Norwich, Conn., failed to properly train Warbin, according to the civil complaint.