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Galen Elijah "Eli" Ruble, as he appeared in 2009. File photo.

Originally published: 2013-04-09 09:29:13
Last modified: 2013-04-09 15:20:22

Murder case ends with plea

A young man charged with second-degree murder pleaded guilty Monday to a lesser charge, avoiding a prison sentence in the accidental shooting that killed his friend in 2009.

Galen Elijah Ruble, 24, of Durham was charged with second-degree murder in the death of 20-year-old Jay Derby of Matthews on Nov. 22, 2009.

According to police and prosecutors, Ruble and friends were drinking that evening at a party at his Faculty Street apartment. He was showing off a black powder muzzleloader he bought at a flea market when he attempted to discharge a percussion cap, not realizing the gun was loaded.

Derby suffered a gunshot wound to the face and died of his injuries.

Despite statements from both the prosecution and defense that the case was headed for trial, Ruble opted to accept a plea bargain Monday afternoon just five minutes before jury selection was supposed to begin, said Chief Prosecutor Britt Springer.

Ruble pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, the charge he originally faced after the incident until a new indictment in September 2012 raised the charge.

"Because he was facing so much more time, I think it opened his eyes as to the reasonableness of the plea offer," Springer said.

Ruble's attorney, Tom Speed, did not immediately return a call seeking comment Tuesday.

Judge Bradley Letts sentenced Ruble to four months' house arrest and 60 months supervised probation, Springer said. If he violates the terms of his probation, he will face between 16 and 20 months in prison.

Ruble also must pay a $5,000 fine, perform 100 hours of community service and pay $4,870 in restitution to the victim's family for funeral expenses.

The victim's father, Michael Derby, addressed the court before the sentencing to speak on behalf of his son, Springer said. He forgave Ruble for his action and told him he felt his son would be sorry to see Ruble going through this.

Ruble did not make a statement, she said.

Springer said Derby's family wanted to see accountability for Ruble's carelessness but wasn't seeking revenge.

"The family was very thankful that the young man took responsibility, and that's what they wanted to see happen, so they left very relieved," Springer said. "You can't say they were happy with the outcome, but they were satisfied. They thought it was a fair plea."

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