Nelsonville man sent to prison after teen son shot and killed 11-year-old with his gun

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ATHENS, OH – A man whose 14-year-old son shot and killed an 11-year-old boy with his gun is headed to prison for four to six years, according to Athens County Common Pleas Court by Judge George McCarthy.

Athens Police said Donald Platt, 37, was found guilty of the first- and third-degree felonies on Feb. 25. In March 2021, Platt left a loaded and unsecured firearm in his home that his son, Mason, was able to access. Mason Platt then accidentally shot and killed Eli Spangler with the weapon. He would later be adjudicated in Athens County Juvenile Court as delinquent after admitting to reckless homicide.

“This case was not about gun ownership,” said Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn. “It was about responsible gun ownership.”

Court records show the two charges were merged for the purposes of sentencing.

“A maximum sentence of 16 and a half years was possible by statute. The Athens County Prosecutor’s Office argued for a minimum of eight years with a maximum of 12. The defense argued for community control and no prison time before McCarthy imposed the four-year sentence,” the court declared.

“I support firearm ownership, but you have a huge responsibility if you’re going to own a firearm. It’s every gun owner’s responsibility to keep their guns safe and out of the reach of children or any other person,” said Nelsonville Police Chief Scott Fitch. “Hopefully, no family ever has to experience this again.”

Blackburn and Chief Criminal Assistant Liz Pepper jointly stated, “We want to thank our investigators, data analysts and the Nelsonville Police Department for their hard work on this case. They worked to see justice for Eli through and his family through a horrible and preventable tragedy.”

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