Gun Safety Lesson Ends In Manslaughter Charge

Philadelphia, PA – A gun safety lesson has landed a mother of two in jail with a manslaughter charge.

Just before 4 am Saturday, 42-year-old Michele Wanko and her husband William, 43, went to the basement of their Parkside home for a random lesson on how to use his firearms, which are normally locked in a safe. William removed several weapons from the safe and showed her how to operate them.

The couple’s two young sons, 2 and 5, were asleep upstairs.

Allegedly while handling a semi-automatic handgun, Michele inadvertently chambered a round and shot her husband in the chest at close range. Michele immediately called 911, waking their 5-year-old. She was described as sounding erratic and screaming.

Before collapsing, William’s last words to his wife were “I can’t believe you shot me!”

William was taken to the Crozer-Chester Medical Center but did not survive the single bullet wound and was pronounced dead at 4:21 am. Michele was taken into custody and charged with involuntary manslaughter. She was later released on $250,000 unsecured bail. The couple’s children are in the care relatives.

Leading up to the accidental shooting the couple had been casually imbibing a mix of vodka and lemonade for several hours. Local authorities are bewildered as to why, after drinking for roughly six hours, William would give a firearm lesson to someone who had never handled a gun before.

The majority of unintentional killings are not deemed murder but involuntary manslaughter, with terms such as “reckless” or “wanton” to describe the degree of negligence. The absence of the element of intent is the key distinguishing factor between voluntary and involuntary manslaughter. In most states, involuntary manslaughter results from an improper use of reasonable care or skill while performing a legal act or while committing an act that is unlawful but not felonious.

There are two types of involuntary manslaughter statutes: criminally negligent manslaughter and unlawful act manslaughter. Criminally negligent manslaughter occurs when death results from a high degree of negligence or recklessness. Criminal codes generally require a consciousness of risk and under some codes the absence of this element makes the offense a less serious classification of homicide.

Involuntary manslaughter is a first degree misdemeanor under the laws of Pennsylvania. The potential punishment for a first degree misdemeanor is a five year term of imprisonment. This penalty can increase if the defendant commits involuntary manslaughter of a child under the age of 12. State law then imposes the criminal charge as a second degree felony and, if convicted, the defendant can receive a sentence of up to 10 years in jail.

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