PARIS – The hunter involved in the shooting death of 18-year-old Megan Ripley is facing a manslaughter charge, state prosecutors said Friday.

The victim’s family is encouraging the community to pray for Timothy P. Bean of Paris.

Bean, 51, was charged and arrested at the Oxford County Jail around 8:30 a.m. Friday and then released on personal recognizance, court documents showed. The conditions of Bean’s release require him not to possess any firearms or to hunt.

State prosecutors decided Ripley’s death was the result of either recklessness or criminal negligence, after reviewing the case with investigators from the Maine Warden Service Thursday, a prosecutor with the state said. They decided on the manslaughter charge because it was evident Bean did not intend to kill Ripley.

“Murder is the intentional killing of another human being,” William Stokes, a deputy attorney general with the Maine Attorney General’s Office, said Friday. “There is no suggestion in this situation that the shooting death was an intentional killing. The next step down is manslaughter.”

Stokes said it is possible more charges could be brought by a grand jury, which will decide whether to indict Bean and move the case forward. The grand jury meets next in early February.

“This is at the complaint stage,” Stokes said. “The next step is the grand jury will be presented with evidence, and there might be additional charges that are included in that presentation.”

Bean declined comment when reached by cell phone Friday afternoon, instead directing questions to his attorney, Edward Dilworth III of Norway.

Bean voluntarily met with game wardens at the jail Friday morning for his booking and is cooperating with the investigation, Dilworth said.

“Tim’s concern is for the Ripley family,” Dilworth said. “He is very concerned about them, it is a tragedy. He doesn’t want to make this any more difficult for them than it has been.”

He added that Bean would continue working with the warden service and the grand jury “so other people in the future know how to prevent these things from occurring.”

On Dec. 7, Bean was hunting with a muzzleloader behind Ripley’s home on Christian Ridge Road in Paris. A little before 4 p.m., Ripley was shot in the chest and fatally wounded in a wooded area nearly a quarter-mile behind her family’s farmhouse. She was pronounced dead at Stephens Memorial Hospital in Norway about an hour later.

Funeral and burial services for Ripley were held Tuesday, and Bean attended.

Stokes said the maximum penalty for a manslaughter conviction is 30 years in jail.

“No one is suggesting that is appropriate in this case,” Stokes said.

Only limited details on the shooting have been released by authorities.

“It’s an ongoing criminal case,” said Mark Latti, spokesman for the warden service. “More details will come out once he is arraigned.” Bean’s first court appearance is scheduled for Feb. 22, 2007.

The Rev. Ronald Leavitt of Harrison, pastor of the Tabernacle of the Congregation church Ripley attended at the VFW Hall on East Main Street in Paris, said the Ripleys and church fellowship held no grudge against Bean

“It’s not going to do any good to hold him in jail for many years,” he said. “We would prefer nothing would happen to him, and I know the family feels the same way.”

“Going to jail is not going to bring Megan back,” Leavitt said.

Late Wednesday evening, Ripley’s mother, Jeri Brown, posted a message to the community on “I thought I would let you all know Megan’s family is doing quite well in spite of our great loss. We miss her, but I see that as a good thing.”

Brown noted that the community has been generous in providing gifts of food and drink, free lodging for out-of-town family, providing a Christmas tree and bringing treats for Ripley’s horse.

She makes a request: “Please keep Tim Bean and his family in your prayers. I dare say they are having a much harder time with all of this than we are. I cannot even begin to imagine how this man must feel. God had a plan, and we are all a part of it. We trust and have the hope that Tim will heal and eventually put this behind him.”

Brown’s note is poignant in explaining that her daughter had befriended Bean’s niece. “Megan had a heart for his niece and always told me what nice girl she was. I hope she is doing OK through this.”

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