Marshall Co. judge sentenced Ryan Fitch in his friend’s 2015 accidental shooting death

GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. -- A case that was in the spotlight in Marshall County came to a close Monday morning. A judge sentenced Ryan Fitch in the accidental shooting death of his friend, 15-year-old Jason Richards.

There were tears in a Marshall County courtroom from both Ryan Fitch and Jason Richards' families during Fitch's sentencing hearing. The state and the defense didn't call witnesses. But, Richards' parents spoke to the court saying they "went through hell" and that pain hasn't gone away.  Fitch cried when Richards' parents spoke.

Earlier this year Fitch pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide in 15-year-old Richards' death. Fitch was 18 at the time of the 2015 accidental shooting in Albertville.

Ryan Anthony Fitch (Photo: Marshall County Jail)

In February 2015, Fitch, Richards and another juvenile were handling a .25 caliber handgun while under the influence. Investigators say it went off while Fitch was holding it, killing Richards.

Fitch and the juvenile took his body and left it in a remote area in Langston on Lois Lane. Investigators found it a few months later in May. Richards was reported as missing that whole time.

During the sentencing hearing, the defense said Fitch has been remorseful since day one and has to live with his actions every day of his life. His lawyers told the court he repeatedly wanted to set up meetings with Richards' family so he could apologize. They described Fitch as a polite and respectful young man.

Before sentencing him, Judge Tim Riley told Fitch the right thing to do was to call 911 and not carry the body off like they did saying, "A few seconds of stupid escalated to a whole lot of wrong. But, you still have a chance to correct your life."

Judge Riley gave Fitch the maximum sentence of 12 months for criminally negligent homicide. Probation was denied and he was ordered to serve that sentence in the Marshall County Community Corrections work release facility.

When he was initially arrested in 2015, Fitch was charged with abuse of a corpse which is a felony, criminally negligent homicide and tampering with physical evidence, both misdemeanors. The felony and the other misdemeanor charge were dropped as part of a plea agreement.

A juvenile was also implicated in this case. A judge denied Fitch's youthful offender status request last year.