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Ligonier-area dad gets probation in shooting

| Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

A Ligonier Township father pleaded no contest on Monday to charges that he left his two stepchildren and a playmate home alone with a cache of weapons, resulting in the friend's fatal shooting.

Rodger McQuillis told Westmoreland County Judge Debra A. Pezze he didn't believe the children were in danger on Sept. 3, 2010, when he left to visit his mother in a nursing home.

But when McQuillis and his wife left, their 12-year-old son retrieved a 30-caliber M-1 carbine rifle and fatally shot 11-year-old Christopher Ryan Harr, who was visiting the family's Darlington Road home.

Police charged McQuillis with misdemeanor counts of child endangerment and reckless endangerment.

“It is our belief that when we were going to the nursing home we were not endangering the children. It is in our best interest to do this plea,” McQuillis said.

Entry of a no-contest plea is not considered an admission of guilt. Pezze sentenced McQuillis to two years' probation.

District Attorney John Peck said members of the Harr family, who did not attend Monday's hearing, asked that McQuillis not serve any jail time.

Peck unsuccessfully sought to have McQuillis serve a year on house arrest.

According to court records, Harr visited the McQuillis home and stayed that night for dinner.

Police said McQuillis left his two stepsons, ages 12 and 13, and Harr alone with about a dozen guns and ammunition.

One of the stepsons allegedly got a rifle from an upstairs utility room and, with the barrel pointed at Harr's head, pulled the trigger, according to investigators.

The gun discharged on the second trigger pull, police said.

The boy, now 13 years old, was prosecuted in juvenile court on a misdemeanor charge of involuntary manslaughter.

Court officials declined to reveal the outcome of that case because juvenile records are sealed from public view.

The Harr family has filed a civil lawsuit against the McQuillis family, which is pending.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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