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Teen pleads guilty in manslaughter case

CONYERS -- The Rockdale County teen charged in connection with the shooting death of a Covington teen while heading home from an Atlanta nightclub earlier this year faces a possible maximum sentence of 18 years of confinement.

Kenneth Hixson Jr., 17, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter before Superior Court Judge David Irwin last week. Hixson was charged in the death of Terrence Dorsey in February. Sentencing has not yet been scheduled for Hixson.

The incident occurred when Hixson and a group of boys, all under 18 years of age, were traveling back from Club Fusion, a nightclub in Midtown Atlanta. The GMC Suburban in which they were riding had just crossed into Rockdale County from DeKalb County when Hixson, who was seated in the rear passenger seat, fired a 9mm gun he was holding. A bullet struck front-seat passenger Dorsey in the back.

Hixson was initially charged with possession of a firearm, reckless conduct and carrying a firearm without a license.

Hixson, who was 16 years old at the time of the crime, told authorities he believed the safety had been engaged and he did not intend to fire the weapon.

The District Attorney's Office made an initial recommendation Monday that Hixson be sentenced to 15 years, with five to be served in prison.

"It's something to where it may or may not be the ultimate recommendation that we give," Assistant District Attorney Kirk Thomas explained Thursday. "If there's something out there that causes us to change our mind, we reserve the right to do that until sentencing."

A sentencing hearing will be held before the judge makes a decision on the sentence.

The sentencing hearing includes testimony regarding the defendant's character and other facts, evidence and circumstances that would aid in making a better informed decision on the final sentence.

Thomas explained that the state looks at every case individually when determining its recommendation.

"Because regardless of our recommendation, the judge can do whatever he wants," Thomas said. "So my recommendation is just that. It's a recommendation."

The victim's family and Hixson himself will be allowed to make a statement at that time, explained Stephanie Lindsey, Hixson's attorney.

"I can tell you that we're asking for a lot less than five years," Lindsey said Thursday of the state's initial recommendation. "He's been remorseful from the second it happened until now."

Lindsey said the incident was purely an accident.

"From day one he has stated that he was responsible. He's never changed that," Lindsey said.

Sentencing will likely be in January at the earliest, according to court officials.