A 77-year-old Alta Sierra man who shot his stepson in the back after they argued was sentenced to 11 years in state prison Monday.
Morris Hyman shot Thomas Demes in the garage of their residence April 28, 2011. Testimony during the trial indicated he then planted a knife near Demes and then was found sitting in his recliner by his wife, Lorene Demes.
Hyman was found guilty in April of this year of attempted murder, as well as special allegations of personal use of a firearm, intentional discharge of a firearm and causing great bodily injury.
The jury also found him guilty of assault with a firearm causing bodily injury but dismissed an allegation of premeditation and deliberation.
But Hyman’s conviction, which carried a potential sentence of 24 years to life, was overturned after Nevada County Superior Court Judge Sean Dowling found he had not been provided with adequate representation in regard to a plea agreement.
Following that decision, Hyman accepted a plea agreement that carried a possible eight to 12 years.
On Monday, the Demes family argued for the maximum term possible, calling the shooting callous and traumatic.
“If Morris Hyman had been a better shot, my son would be dead,” said Lorene Demes. “Twelve years is not enough.”
Hyman’s public defender, Tamara Zuromskis, said he had led an exemplary, law-abiding life for over 75 years but made a “terrible mistake” when he shot Thomas Demes.
“What he did was wrong,” she said, adding that an eight-year sentence would be fair and appropriate punishment.
Zuromskis argued that Hyman’s age should also be taken into consideration, since any sentence likely would be a life sentence.
“It’s obvious he will never do anything remotely like this again,” she said, after offering up 14 letters attesting to Hyman’s good character.
Dowling acknowledged the “good comments,” saying they needed to be balanced against the aggravating circumstances — shooting the victim in the back, delaying in calling 911 and planting the knife. Dowling noted Thomas Demes was so severely injured it was two weeks before he was well enough to be interviewed.
Dowling called the tension within the family an “ordinary problem,” saying Hyman’s “solution” was “not even close to what I would call a mistake.”
Hyman is to receive credit for 618 days, and the count of assault with a firearm was dismissed.
“As a family, we’re disappointed the original sentence was overturned,” said Thomas Demes’ brother, Wade Demes, after the sentencing. But 11 years — we are grateful for that.”
In other court news
Mark Dewayne Bowden, 32, of Rough and Ready, was held to answer on all charges after being arrested in February.
He was pulled over by a California Highway Patrol officer due to alleged equipment infractions and allegedly failed to produce identification. A vehicle search allegedly yielded an illegal knife, nearly two pounds of suspected meth, a digital scale, packaging materials, about $5,000 in cash and drug paraphernalia.
Bowden has been charged with possession of a controlled substance for sale, possession of drug paraphernalia and transportation of a controlled substance. He was in Nevada County Superior Court Thursday and is out of custody on $150,000 bail. He is set for formal arraignment Nov. 2.
To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 477-4229.