NEPHI — A 27-year-old West Haven man has been charged in the shooting death of his teenage brother during a camping trip at Yuba Lake State Park.
Eric Charlton was charged Friday with a second-degree felony count of manslaughter and misdemeanor counts of reckless endangerment and carrying a dangerous weapon under the influence of alcohol.
His 17-year-old brother, Cameron Charlton, of Hooper, was shot in the head May 28 while camping with family and friends at the park, about 110 miles south of Salt Lake City, in Juab County.
The two brothers and a 16-year-old friend were drinking around a campfire around 3 a.m. when Eric Charlton began demonstrating gun techniques, according to court documents.
Eric Charlton, who served in Iraq as a U.S. Marine, said he thought his .45-caliber handgun was empty, but it discharged. His brother was pronounced dead at the scene.
The 16-year-old told police they all had been drinking beer and that Eric Charlton also had been drinking rum.
Investigators said Eric Charlton was extremely distraught and the shooting was not intentional.
Juab County Attorney Jared Eldridge said the decision to charge Eric Charlton was not made lightly, but prosecutors ultimately felt charges were justified.
“As you can imagine, this has been very emotional for the family,” Eldridge said. “On the one hand, they’ve lost a son. On the other, there is a son who (has been charged), and that is very difficult for them to come to grips with.”
Eric Charlton is currently free on bail while awaiting a June 19 court appearance. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison.
Eric Charlton has no criminal record, but court records show he paid a number of fines or forfeited bail for a series of traffic infractions from 2002 to 2007 for speeding, driving on suspended or revoked licenses and having an expired registration.
Family members say Cameron Charlton idolized his older brother and hoped to follow him into the Marines. Eric Charlton was given a medical discharge for an ankle injury.
The brothers enjoyed fishing and hunting together.