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Yosts sentenced in child's death

May 10, 2002|BY KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

kimy@herald-mail.com

A Washington County District judge on Thursday ordered the parents of young boy who accidentally fired a shot that claimed the life of his 6-year-old sister to continue their son's counseling.

Washington County District Judge R. Noel Spence also sentenced Patricia Mae Yost, 26, and Alan Frederick Yost, 29, to two years of unsupervised probation and to perform 250 hours of community service each.

Patricia and Alan Yost, of 12072 National Pike, each pleaded guilty in March to a misdemeanor charge of allowing children access to firearms.

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They had been charged following the Nov. 29, 2001, shooting death of their daughter.

Cassey Yost died when a shotgun held by her brother, Austin, then 8, discharged, striking her in the head at the family's home, Maryland State Police said.

Spence disregarded a pre-sentencing report that recommended imposing a fine of $1,000 on each parent.

Spence said the maximum penalty for the misdemeanor offense, a $1,000 fine, wasn't appropriate for Alan and Patricia Yost, who have struggled to afford their son's psychological treatment, according to their lawyer.

"I don't think adding financial expense to this family would better the community or better you in any way," Spence told the Yosts. "There is nothing I can do, or anyone else can do, that would impose any greater punishment on you than you've already suffered."

Spence said the Yosts' probation might be terminated earlier if they cooperate with counseling and if their community service is performed promptly.

Defense attorney Lewis Metzner told the judge that losing their daughter at their son's hand has been punishment enough.

Metzner said that as the couple's attorney, he has learned "they're not gun freaks or gun nuts."

They've taken responsibility for what happened and offer no excuses, said Metzner, who said they should not be given even probation.

The couple did not speak when given the opportunity during the court proceeding.

The Yosts and their families were raised handling guns and hunting at an early age, Metzner said.

Austin also had hunted from a young age, like his father, a self-employed logger who killed his first deer at 7, Metzner said.

Metzner said that prior to the shooting, the family had traveled to Florida to visit a relative who was having a liver transplant and that Alan and Austin Yost returned earlier than the rest of the family to go hunting.

When the other family members returned from Florida, Alan hadn't had time to clean and put away the guns, Metzner said.

Police have said that on the night of the shooting, Cassey, Austin and a younger brother, Ajay, 2, were playing in an upstairs bedroom when Austin thought he saw something out the window and loaded a single-shot shotgun and a rifle.

After a few minutes, the boy unloaded the rifle, placed the shotgun on the bed and told his sister to unload it, police said. Then, thinking his sister had unloaded the shotgun, he picked up the weapon and it went off, police said.

Police said that when they went to the house, they found a loaded 9 mm handgun on the nightstand in the oldest child's bedroom and rifles on the kitchen floor and leaning against a wall in the living room.

Metzner said many of the guns had been borrowed for the hunting trip.

The family has turned to their faith to help them through the tragedy, their pastor, the Rev. Dennis E. Whitmore of the Potomac Charge United Methodist Churches, said following the sentencing.

The parents have made mistakes and are struggling for self-forgiveness, Whitmore said.

"They're good people. They're always willing to help others when asked," Whitmore said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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