A Harlem teen accused of fatally shooting his 13-year-old friend was given the maximum sentence Friday at a Columbia County Juvenile Court hearing.
Zachary Provance, 14, was sentenced by Juvenile Court Judge Douglas Flanagan to serve the maximum amount of confinement allowed. He was remanded to the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice, which will evaluate and decide the length of Provance’s confinement, Flanagan said.
“When somebody dies, someone goes to jail,” said Flanagan, who estimates Provance’s sentence will be a minimum of two years.
Provance admitted to accidentally shooting Eleanor Grace “Elle” Kelly, 13, when they and two other teens were in Provance’s Kenner Street home on March 29 preparing for a Harlem Middle School dance.
Authorities say Provance was showing off his father’s .38-caliber pistol. As Provance tried to uncock the gun, it fired and hit Kelly in the face. The bullet lodged in her brain, and she died the next day.
Provance was charged with involuntary manslaughter, reckless conduct and possession of a firearm by a person younger than 18.
“I’m sorry all this is happening,” said Provance at the hearing, adding that he wishes he could reverse his actions. “Elle was a good friend of mine.”
Both Provance and Kelly played together in the Harlem Middle band.
Defense attorney Michael Spence said Provance has trouble sleeping and suffers from depression following the shooting.
“He has expressed extreme remorse,” he said.
Kelly’s family said they don’t believe the shooting was an accident, citing messages Provance posted and later deleted onto her Facebook page, including one that said Provance wanted to pin down Kelly and not let her up. Through tears, the teen’s mother and older sisters expressed their anger at Provance and pain from losing Kelly, the youngest triplet.
“He has his life still, and he’s still breathing,” her older sister said.
Several people spoke on Provance’s behalf, stating he was a “good kid,” respectful and very intelligent. Many expressed their condolences to Kelly’s family.
Provance’s father, Richard, said his son made a terrible mistake, but would never intentionally hurt someone. He said he regarded Kelly as one of his own children.
Richard Provance, 54, lost custody of his son at an April 4 hearing after police found marijuana plants in a closet and guns when searching the home. He was charged with manufacture and possession of drugs and with possession of a gun during the commission of a crime, but released after posting bond.
Richard Provance said his son’s friends often came to his house to watch TV or play video games, but were never exposed to drugs or alcohol.
“It’s a no-win situation,” Flanagan said. “This is what happens when people don’t secure firearms.”