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LOGAN — When a young man in distress came to him for help, David Thomas Schofield instead give him the means to end his life.
"I trusted him, and Bradley trusted him as well, and he handed him a loaded gun," Ben Mackey told a judge Monday.
It happened in an instant, and Mackey watched in horror as his best friend, 20-year-old Bradley Stewart Wenneberg, pulled the trigger on the gun that Schofield had just handed him.
Schofield, 48, was sentenced Monday to one to 15 years in prison for illegally possessing the gun he gave Wenneberg, a second-degree felony. He will also serve a concurrent sentence of up to one year for negligent homicide, a class A misdemeanor.
"Your actions caused the death of a troubled but innocent man," 1st District Judge Kevin Allen told Schofield. "I can't even imagine what was going through your mind."
Wenneberg, battling depression and suicidal thoughts, came to Schofield's Logan home on June 13 seeking help, Mackay told the judge. Instead, Schofield handed him a gun as he sat on the couch and told him, "If you're going to do it, then pull the (expletive) trigger," he said.
In front of his girlfriend and Mackey, Wenneberg took the .38-caliber handgun, put it to his temple and fired, according to police.
When officers arrived at the scene, Schofield reported that Wenneberg, his girlfriend and Mackey had come to talk to him about an argument from the previous night. Though emotions seemed to have calmed, Schofield told police that Wenneberg got up to use the restroom, but instead retrieved Schofield's handgun from a bedroom before coming back and shooting himself.
Wenneberg had spoken in the past about thoughts of harming himself, and had sent text messages repeating those feelings the night before, Schofield said.
However, when officers met them at an area hospital, Wenneberg's girlfriend and Mackey gave a different account, describing how Schofield had provided the gun and told Wenneberg to pull the trigger.
Mr. Schofield, you and you alone are the reason that young man died that night, and you and you alone are the reason you will be spending up to 15 years in prison.
–Kevin Allen, 1st District Judge
Mackey mourned the loss of his friend, who he said always encouraged him to do good.
"I'm never going to see him again," Mackey said. "I want justice for my best friend."
Wenneberg's father and stepmother stood close together, weeping, as they begged the judge for a maximum prison sentence for Schofield. They described their son as happy and loving, with plans to go to college and get married, and insisted the young man didn't know the gun was loaded.
Brad Wenneberg, Sr., said he has no question that, if it hadn't been for Schofield, "my son would still be here."
"You gave him a gun. How stupid can you be, dude?" the grieving father said, turning toward Schofield. "You took my kid from me."
Allen also ordered Schofield on Monday to pay $7,500 in restitution to Wenneberg's family for funeral expenses, as well as ongoing counseling expenses for the parents and the two friends who witnessed the shooting.
Schofield, becoming emotional, apologized to Wenneberg's parents and the two young people who saw their friend take his life. He said he made a mistake, claiming that his thinking was clouded by his own mental struggles.
Schofield and his attorney asked the judge for probation rather than prison to allow Schofield to get counseling, care for his own children and begin paying restitution to the family.
"I will do whatever it takes for this family, friends, anything," Schofield pleaded. "It was a bad judgment call due to a bad week prior, and it just kept building and building."
The judge, however, told Schofield he has avoided truly taking responsibility for the role he played in Wenneberg's death.
"Mr. Schofield, you and you alone are the reason that young man died that night, and you and you alone are the reason you will be spending up to 15 years in prison," Allen said.
Schofield pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm by a restricted person, a second-degree felony, and negligent homicide, a class A misdemeanor. In exchange for the plea, prosecutors agreed not to pursue additional charges against Schofield, including allegations that he had threatened a woman, court documents state.
Schofield was convicted in Arizona of aggravated assault in 1997 and, as a felon, was prohibited from possessing a firearm, according to court documents.
- Utah County Crisis Line: 801-226- 4433
- Salt Lake County/UNI Crisis Line: 801-587-3000
- Wasatch Mental Health Crisis Line: 801-373- 7393
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK
- Trevor Project Hotline for LGBTQ teens: 1- 866-488-7386