Man guilty in shooting over hat
Owen County jury convicts Fleener of reckless homicide for shooting at Spencer bar
SPENCER — A Gosport resident was found guilty of reckless homicide Monday for killing a man in an argument over a NASCAR racing cap.
Eugene Fleener, 43, was charged with murder in October 2000 after the shooting of 31-year-old Daniel "Tommy" Hutchison in the Phoenix Bar & Grill in Spencer.
But an Owen County jury found him guilty of the lesser offense of reckless homicide after deliberating 3 1/2 hours Monday afternoon.
The crime carries a sentence of from two to eight years in prison. Fleener's sentencing was set for 11 a.m. June 25 in Owen Circuit Court.
Fleener and Hutchison argued over a NASCAR racing cap, police said. Hutchison was apparently a fan of driver Jeff Gordon, while Fleener favored the late Dale Earnhardt.
Hutchison also may have believed Fleener caused him to lose his job, though Hutchison's former boss disputed that idea in testimony Monday.
Fleener's trial began last week, and closing statements were given Monday morning by Owen County Prosecutor Allan Fountain and defense attorneys Tom Jones and Matt Rumble.
Fountain recounted testimony by other bar patrons who said they saw Fleener and Hutchison argue earlier in the evening, before Fleener left the bar and returned with a .22-caliber gun.
He said Fleener shouldn't have been in the bar, or had the firearm, because he was on probation for a felony offense in another county.
Fountain told the jurors that life involves making choices, and that Fleener made several wrong ones.
"The choices he made that night resulted in the murder of Tommy Hutchison," Fountain said. "They are choices he made, and choices he's going to have to live with."
Fleener's attorneys said the shooting was in self-defense because Hutchison had become physical with Fleener's 19-year-old son, Jeremiah, who had accompanied his father when he returned to the bar. They said Fleener had no intention of shooting Hutchison until he saw his son scuffling with the much larger man.
"Not once in the entire evening did Eugene Fleener start any problems with anybody until he saw his son, in his mind, about to suffer serious bodily injury," Jones said.
He also disputed the accuracy of some of the bar patrons' statements, pointing out inconsistencies.
Both men were intoxicated at the time of the argument, according to court records.
After the altercation, police allege, Fleener went home and picked up the rifle and his 19-year-old son, Jeremiah.
The two returned to the bar, where Jeremiah Fleener went inside and tried to talk to Hutchison. The two began to fight, and Eugene Fleener entered the bar and shot Hutchison in the neck and his son in the arm, police said.
Fleener's attorneys said Fleener "blacked out" and didn't recall the details of the incident.