MICHIGAN CITY | A Michigan City man accused of fatally shooting his girlfriend's 3-year-old son in a gun game mishap could receive no more than 12 years in prison.
A sentencing cap is among the terms of a plea agreement struck between the defense for Zachariah Grisham and prosecutors.
Grisham, 24, pleaded guilty Thursday to Class B felony neglect of a dependent for having a gun with a child present in the home.
The plea contains no mention of a gun game that authorities believe led to the boy's death.
LaPorte County Deputy Prosecutor Dave Ambers said he could not offer any insight on the crafting of the plea until the terms are accepted and Grisham is sentenced to avoid tainting prospective jurors if the deal is rejected and the case goes to trial.
If the plea is approved by the court, Grisham would face an up to 20-year sentence with no more than 12 years of incarceration.
Any additional time following his release would be served on probation or with some other restrictions or a combination of both.
Lance Wilson died from a gunshot wound to the head in September at Terrace Acres, a mobile home park along U.S. 20 near Hitchcock Street.
The investigation shows Grisham was living there with Lance and at least one other child along with the boy's mother.
According to authorities, Grisham and the boy often played a game where the boy pointed his finger at Grisham and said "bang, bang."
Grisham would respond by pointing his gun at the boy and pulling the trigger.
This time, Grisham forgot the gun was loaded and pulled the trigger, authorities said.
Originally, Grisham was charged with neglect of a dependent as a Class A felony which carries a sentencing range of 20 to 50 years.
Ambers said downgrading the charge is typical in plea negotiations to avoid going to trial and the chance of a defendant being found not guilty.
A murder charge was not sought because there was no evidence of any intent to kill the boy, he said.
"It did not meet the qualifications of murder. It's a very unfortunate incident," said Ambers, who noted Grisham will have to serve at least six years of incarceration.
The plea in LaPorte Superior Court 1 also calls for sentencing to be argued before Judge Kathleen Lang but a hearing date for that to happen has not been set.
According to court documents, Grisham has a prior criminal record dating back to 2003 for much lower level crimes like theft and false informing.
Prior to the shooting, his latest brush with the law was 2012 when fined more than $200 for a noise ordinance violation, court documents revealed.