Man get five years probation in shooting
Boyfriend had admitted to killing his girlfriend

LOUDON - A Lenoir City man who admitted shooting and killing his girlfriend during an argument last year will receive five years' probation for the crime.

John Kenneth Harvey, 26, was arrested in February 2008 and charged with second-degree murder in the death of Savannah Cathy McMahan, 21.

Prosecutors said they reduced the charge to reckless homicide and agreed to supervised probation after reviewing the evidence in the case.

"It was a compromise," said Assistant District Attorney Bill Reedy. "We had to get realistic on what we could prove."

Physical evidence included ballistics testimony on how the shooting occurred.

"He claimed the shooting was an accident," Reedy said. "Our ballistics expert could not refute their expert."

Harvey admits he was arguing with McMahan. He claimed, however, he picked up the .22-caliber revolver from the table as if he was going to shoot himself when it went off accidentally.

Charles Cosner, a detective for the Loudon County Sheriff's Office, said his interpretation of the ballistics evidence indicated the shooting was no accident.

"It didn't happen the way he said it happened," Cosner said.

Powder burns on the victim showed the gunshot was fired at close range, he said. Moreover, the revolver was a "single action" type that had to be deliberately cocked before it could be fired, Cosner said.

Possibly the most important factor in the decision not to try the case was the "dying declaration," of McMahan herself, Reedy said.

A third person in the home at the time of the shooting, Nathaniel Lane, originally told investigating officers he was asleep and heard neither the argument nor the gunshot.

Lane later recalled much more about the incident and was prepared to testify the victim was declaring her love for Harvey even as she lay bleeding on the floor, Reedy said.

"He says she was saying she was sorry, that she knew it was an accident," Reedy said.

The decision to reduce the charges was made after several meetings with the victim's parents, Reedy said.

"They did not feel particularly good about the boyfriend, but after we went through the trial process with them they agreed to the proposed sentence," he said.

Law enforcement did not feel good about the plea either.

"We thought we had enough to charge him with second-degree murder," said Loudon County Sheriff Tim Guider.