COURTHOUSE – A Circuit Court judge on Wednesday, Oct. 19, sentenced a Pungo man to 15 years for involuntary manslaughter and a weapons charge in the March 2015 death of Dakota Lane, 18, in the Pungo area.
Glen Phillips, 51, who ran a landscaping business that employed Lane, was sentenced following a plea agreement in May, when he pleaded guilty to two charges, involuntary manslaughter and possession of a weapon by a felon.
An additional charge against Phillips for possession with intent to distribute less than a half-ounce of marijuana was dropped. Marijuana was found at Phillips’ house, according to court records.
Phillips, who taught martial arts for several years in the area, acknowledged accidentally shooting Lane in the chest after playing pool with Lane and another young man employed by Phillips’ landscaping business. The shooting took place at about 1:30 a.m., Tuesday, March 10, 2015.
Circuit Court Judge H. Thomas Padrick Jr. this past month sentenced Phillips to five years in prison for the weapons charge, a mandatory sentence, and then an additional 10 years on the involuntary manslaughter charge. The time runs consecutively.
The judge made his ruling following an emotional hearing during which loved ones spoke of the toll of the loss on Lane’s family while others spoke of Phillips’ accomplishments, challenges and remorse.
Stacey Williams, one of Lane’s aunts, spoke of seeing him the Sunday before his death. “Now there’s just a piece missing,” she said of her nephew, whom she described as a child becoming a man. “You, Glen, took that away from my sister,” she said. “You have damaged so many lives.”
“None of us will ever know what could have been for him,” said Shannon Williams, another aunt of Lane’s.
“Cody did not have to die,” she said. “He did not.”
Phillips looked down. He nodded.
Stephanie Lane, the victim’s mother, gave her remarks in the form of a letter to her son.
“Dear my precious angel in heaven … ”
She spoke of her feelings about having not been able to protect her child that night. She made clear her grief, even addressing jealousy when she sees mothers and sons together.
“I love you and I miss you,” she said, concluding her letter. “Sweet dreams, my angel. Love, Mom.”
Friends and family spoke on Phillips’ behalf, including a contractor who employed Phillips years ago, including when Phillips faced criminal charges in the mid-1980s and worked to rebuild his life.
Others spoke about Phillips’ efforts as a businessperson, events from his childhood and his decency and kind acts toward others. Several people also wrote letters on his behalf, which the judge reviewed.
Before he was sentenced, Phillips addressed the court. He spoke of Lane as a “young man in my charge, someone I was supposed to be taking care of.”
He added: “Dakota was everything his family mentioned and more.”
And he said:
“There’s nothing I can say. It was a terrible accident. … I just can’t believe it happened. I can’t believe Dakota’s gone.”
Padrick, before delivering his sentence, said the case came down to the reckless act of Phillips’ handling of a weapon that he should not have had in the first place.
“The understatement of the day is it’s a tragedy for everybody,” he added.
Regarding a minimum sentence of 6 years and a month, including five years for the weapons charge alone, Padrick noted, “What kind of message does it send to the community that a young man’s life is worth only a year?”
According to a court record outlining facts in the case, rescue officials had responded to Phillips’ home on the 4400 block of Charity Neck Road. They found Phillips trying to administer aid to Lane. Phillips said he accidentally shot Lane in the chest. Lane died at the house.
Phillips told police he had consumed two whiskey and Cokes at a local bar and another drink at home. He had taken two prescription Adderall pills and had smoked marijuana. He had his gun with him that evening, leaving it under the seat of his car while they were in the bar. He brought it inside when they returned to his house. He said he was unloading it when it fired.
Throughout testimony during the sentencing hearing in October, Phillips listened, at times bowing his head, nodding and weeping.
Dakota Lane, known as Cody, was a 2014 graduate of Kellam High School who was studying at ECPI University at the time of his death, according to an obituary.
More than a year ago, 19-year-old Jonathan Seeley, an employee of Phillips, testified at a hearing that he had recruited his friend Lane to join Phillips’ business a couple of months before the shooting. Seeley said both had a social relationship with Phillips, too. The three were together the night Lane died.
“We hung out with him sometimes,” Seeley said, according to a transcript in court records.
“Usually his house or we’d go play pool,” Seeley added.
Seeley said they met up after work and watched a movie before going to the Ready Room on London Bridge Road to shoot pool.
They returned to Phillips’ home. Seeley testified that Phillips had his gun out. Seeley heard a bang, saw a flash. He said Lane, on the floor, said to call an ambulance because he had been shot. Seeley said he told Phillips: “You just shot my best friend.”
“I’m sorry,” Phillips replied, according to Seeley. “It was an accident.”
Seeley went to his friend, lifted his shirt and saw a hole in the other teen’s chest. They called 911. Phillips tried to perform CPR on Lane until rescue officials arrived.
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