- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 16, 2014

PITTSBURGH (AP) - A Missouri woman will serve five years’ probation in that state after pleading guilty in the fatal accidental shooting of her cousin at his Pittsburgh-area home with a gun she believed wasn’t loaded.

Stephanie Munizza, 28, of Maryland Heights, was sentenced immediately after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter in Allegheny County on Tuesday. Prosecutors didn’t dispute her contention that the shooting was accidental, but had filed charges of third-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter in Joshua Poremski’s death because they contend she was grossly negligent to pull the trigger of a gun aimed at his head.

Munizza pleaded guilty to the manslaughter charge, a misdemeanor carrying a maximum five-year prison sentence, and prosecutors dropped the murder charged, which carried up to 40 years in prison.

Munizza has been living on house arrest with Poremski’s parents in the Pittsburgh suburb of Upper St. Clair - in the house where the shooting occurred about 4 a.m. Nov. 1. She’ll return to Missouri in a few days, defense attorney David Shrager said.

Authorities contend Munizza and Poremski had been drinking beer and whisky and were talking about Munizza possibly getting a concealed carry permit. Poremski then offered his gun to her, telling her it wasn’t loaded. Witnesses said Poremski asked if Munizza could “really shoot a person” who threatened her family before she aimed the gun at Poremski’s head, shooting him through the lip and damaging his neck and spine.

“I truly am sorry for everything that happened,” Munizza told Judge Jeffrey Manning.

Shrager said Munizza is “beyond devastated.”

“She is a shell of a human being, barely able to function in daily life,” he said.

Shrager said Poremski’s family was too traumatized to appear in court, but supported the sentence.

“They love this young lady and just want her to get the help she needs,” Shrager said. “They want to grieve and get on with their lives.”

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