Trish Bennett, Editor
CIRCLEVILLE – A Darbyville man was acquitted Tuesday in Pickaway County Common Pleas Court of charges in connection with the shooting death of his uncle last summer.
A Pickaway County jury deliberated about three and a half hours before finding Garret K. Gartin, 22, not guilty on charges of voluntary manslaughter and reckless homicide in the Aug. 3, 2015, death of Charles L. Huffer, 54.
“We’re obviously pleased the jury saw this as self-defense,” said Michael Hess, Gartin’s attorney. “Unfortunately, the life of a family member was taken, so there’s no real reason to celebrate at this point.”
Judge P. Randall Knece ordered Gartin to be immediately released from the Pickaway County Jail, where he has remained since the night of the shooting on a $500,000 bond.
The incident occurred about 7:40 p.m. Aug. 3 in Gartin’s home at 16814 Main St., Darbyville, according to reports. Deputies from the Pickaway County Sheriff’s Office were dispatched to the scene following a 911 call from a neighbor’s residence reporting a shooting.
When deputies arrived, they discovered Gartin waiting for them on the neighbor’s porch and Huffer dead on the living room floor with a gunshot wound to the head.
Testimony in the two-day trial revealed Huffer was something of a drifter with a long criminal history who occasionally stayed with his sister (Gartin’s mother) in the Darbyville home. Several months after her death in April, Huffer again arrived at the home seeking a place to stay.
The shooting occurred about a week after Gartin allowed him to stay in the home, but Gartin testified he had a long-standing fear of his uncle, whom he knew was usually armed and whom he considered dangerous.
According to testimony, the two had gone to a strip club together earlier in the evening, where Huffer became extremely intoxicated and was thrown out of the business. When they returned home, Huffer reportedly urged Gartin to open his mother’s locked safe, and Gartin refused. Following a heated argument, Gartin then asked his uncle to gather his belongings and leave.
Gartin testified that Huffer refused to leave the home and instead went into the living room to sit on the couch. In the meantime, Gartin opened the safe, retrieved a gun from inside and came back to the living room, he said with the intent of scaring his uncle into leaving the residence.
Instead, he testified, Huffer rose from the couch and attempted to lunge at him, and he fired the weapon in fear. The bullet struck Huffer in the head, and Gartin went to the neighbor’s house to report the incident.
The state, represented by Jayme Fountain and Robert Chamberlain, assistant county prosecutors, argued that Gartin was the one who introduced the gun into the situation and that it took him 15 minutes to open the safe and retrieve the weapon before confronting his uncle with it.
The jury ultimately agreed with the defense’s assertion, however, that Gartin acted out of fear of his uncle and in self-defense when Huffer lunged at him from the couch. They offered verdicts of not guilty on both charges as well as gun specifications on each.
“That’s why we put these cases in front of a jury,” Fountain said following the verdict. “This was a case that needed to be tried. Clearly the jury believed he was operating in self-defense, and the law provides for that.”
Gartin faced 14 years in state prison if convicted of the felony charges with gun specifications, according to Hess.
This article originally appeared on The Pickaway News Journal