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Teen pleads guilty in Maki’s death

Profile image for By Bj Lewis / Staff Writer
By Bj Lewis / Staff Writer

Underwood placed on five years probation

Michael Bryce Underwood — who was charged in the fatal shooting of Guyer High School football standout Nathan Maki in Montague County last August — pleaded guilty Monday to criminally negligent homicide in the death of his friend.

Underwood, now 18, was sentenced to two years in prison, but the sentence was suspended and he was placed on five years probation, according to Montague County district court officials. The plea deal was offered by Montague County District Attorney Paige Williams late last week after talking to Maki’s family about it.

“Two additional requirements besides your standard ‘don’t commit crimes, don’t consume alcohol, don’t do any drugs,’ he has to complete high school and speak at some kind of gun safety class in the next 12 months,” Williams said. “We did add some unique probation requirements. Part of it was, that was something that was very close to Nathan’s mom that needed to be addressed.”

During the plea proceedings, Williams read a victim impact statement from Maki’s mother in court Monday in which Bonnie Tatera forgave Underwood for the shooting.

Williams said she agreed to the plea bargain, which allowed Underwood to plead guilty to a lesser offense than the manslaughter charge on which he had been indicted.

“It was the right outcome for everybody involved,” Williams said.

If Underwood violates the terms of his probation, he will go to jail for two years, Williams said. The offense is a state jail felony, and no early release is allowed, she said.

Underwood was indicted in mid-October after Maki was shot with a rifle during a Labor Day weekend campout with friends at property owned by the Underwood family.

Maki, 18, would have been a senior fullback for the Wildcats this school year.

According to Montague County Sheriff Paul Cunningham, the friends — Underwood, Maki and two 18-year-old women who have remained unidentified — were awaiting the opening of dove hunting season on the 109-acre property off Well Service Road when the incident occurred.

Emergency personnel found Maki on Aug. 31 unresponsive in the driver’s seat of a white 2008 Chevrolet pickup.

Underwood told responders that he and Maki had been hunting and that he was outside the pickup taking aim at an animal when he discharged the .22-caliber rifle, according to a search warrant affidavit.

Underwood was initially arrested at the scene and charged with consumption of alcohol by a minor, a Class C misdemeanor. He paid a $500 bond and was released on Sept. 1.

The case was presented to a grand jury in the middle of October after being rescheduled because of a heavy caseload, officials said.

BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875 and via Twitter at @BjlewisDRC.