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Independence man sentenced to prison for killing longtime girlfriend

Updated: 2013-09-16T23:15:37Z

By BRIAN BURNES

The Kansas City Star

An Independence man who shot and killed his girlfriend while drinking received a seven-year prison sentence Monday.

Sean Ray, who had pleaded guilty to one count of involuntary manslaughter in the February shooting death of his girlfriend, Kari Jean Tabor, would be eligible for five years of probation if he successfully completes an alcoholism treatment program during his first 120 days in jail.

Relatives of both the victim and defendant said afterward they were satisfied with the sentence.

“Probation would have been good, but the judge did what he had to do,” said Diane Ray, the mother of the defendant.

“This is probably the best that we could hope for,”said Amber Blackburn, Tabor’s daughter. “Hopefully, this 120-day program will be good for Sean.”

Tabor died Feb. 9. According to court documents, Ray called 911 just after noon that day and told police he had accidentally shot his girlfriend.

Ray told the first police officer who arrived that he had been cleaning his rifle and had inserted a magazine of ammunition in when the rifle fired and struck Tabor, who was standing in the way. Officers said that Ray later told them he was taking the magazine out when the rifle fired. Tabor, 46, died at a hospital.

Ray consented to a breath test, which determined his blood alcohol level was more than 0.2 percent. In Missouri, the level to be legally considered intoxicated is 0.08 percent.

Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Charles McKenzie, calling the shooting a “tragic situation.” Noting that “alcohol was part of this tragedy,” he ruled that Ray take part in the treatment program.

McKenzie’s ruling ended an emotional one-hour hearing in the Jackson County Circuit Court Annex in Independence.

“My mother didn’t have an easy life, and the way her life ended was so unfair,” Blackburn said, sobbing on the witness stand. “I won’t ever get to tell her that I love her again.”

But Blackburn also noted the long relationship her mother had enjoyed with Ray.

“Sean has been a part of my life for a very long time,” she said. “He loved my mother, and my mother loved him. I don’t think that sending Sean to prison will do any good. I know Sean would do anything to bring my mom back.”

While testifying, Diane Ray said that her son and Tabor, while not legally married, had a 20-year relationship. “Both our families are devastated,” she said.

She also said her son drank beer often. “He didn’t go to the bars but he liked to drink beer at night,” she said.

Near the hearing’s conclusion, Ray stood and looked toward Blackburn, saying “I’m so sorry.”

To reach Brian Burnes, call 816-234-4120 or send email to bburnes@kcstar.com.

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