Maximum sentence for York man whose stray bullet hit innocent bystander
The husband of Monique Nixon and the man whose errant bullet killed her locked eyes in York County Court Thursday morning.
But Mark Nixon showed no malice toward Christopher Lee Schwenk Jr., who was convicted July 27 of third-degree murder in Monique Nixon's death.
Instead, he expressed only disappointment that Schwenk, 27, of York City has not accepted responsibility for accidentally killing Monique Nixon while firing at a man about 3:30 a.m. Nov. 6, 2013.
"I know you're a smart guy ... because I know you. I know it had to be an accident," Mark Nixon told the defendant. "I know you wouldn't have shot my wife on purpose."
He called the murder a loss to his family as well as to Schwenk's family. He said he hopes Schwenk can do his time in prison and come out a better man.
"I just wanted some accountability," Mark Nixon told the killer. "I can't put my loss into words."
Schwenk, who maintains his innocence, listened respectfully and apologized to the widower when it was his turn to speak in court, but he didn't admit guilt.
"I want you to know I'm deeply sorry," he said, adding he lost a younger cousin to gun violence and therefore understands some of Mark Nixon's grief. "If there was anything I could do to take your pain away, I would."
'Not a monster': The defendant then turned to presiding Common Pleas Judge Thomas H. Kelley VI and asked for mercy.
"I'm not a monster," Schwenk said. "I have three beautiful children who I'm everything to. I don't want my kids to grow up (without a father) like I did."
His trial attorney, Sandra Thompson, told Kelley that Schwenk's young children need him and that her client can be rehabilitated.
"He's not that street guy ... looking for violence," she said, then asked for a sentence of less than 10 years in prison.
First assistant district attorney Jennifer Russell reminded the judge that Monique Nixon "was an innocent bystander in the wrong place at the wrong time" and that Schwenk fired his gun seven times on a residential street.
The idea of giving Schwenk a lesser sentence because he meant to shoot a different person "is ridiculous," she said.
Kelley agreed. Citing Schwenk's prior record, which includes simple assault cases and an illegal gun possession charge, he said the defendant is a poor candidate for rehabilitation.
He sentenced Schwenk to 20 to 40 years in state prison — the maximum sentence in Pennsylvania for third-degree murder.
"Lack of a father or father figure does not excuse the behavior the defendant has engaged in," Kelley said, then noted that he too grew up without a father.
The murder: Schwenk jumped out of his parked vehicle near the corner of South Queen Street and Hope Avenue and fired seven times at Eddie Gallon III, who was about to punch Schwenk's girlfriend, Ashley Rodriguez, according to York City Police.
At the time, Rodriguez had a protection from abuse order against Gallon, police said.
After firing at Gallon, Schwenk picked up the shell casings ejected from his 9mm handgun, went inside Rodriguez's nearby home and went to bed, police said.
Monique Nixon, 49, was shot by an errant bullet while standing about a half-block away at the corner of South Queen and East Princess streets, police said.
She later died at York Hospital of a single gunshot wound to the chest, according to the York County Coroner's office.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org.