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Groton man pleads guilty to manslaughter, avoids murder charge

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Groton man pleads guilty to manslaughter, avoids murder charge
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It was a vicious knife attack that left a Groton man dead. Now the man responsible has pleaded guilty to manslaughter. Tamara Lindstrom sat down with the prosecutor to find out why Dana Houghtling won't be tried for murder.

TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y. -- By all accounts, it was a savage, bloody attack that ended the life of 31-year old Jeff West.

"There's no question in this case that he intended to cause the death of Mr. West, that he in fact did cause the death of Mr. West, both of which are elements of a murder in the second degree charge," said Assistant District Attorney Andrew Bonavia.

On April 15th, 2012, Dana Houghtling followed his estranged wife and West to a friend’s house in Lansing. According to witnesses, he slammed his truck so hard into a parked car that the car flipped and landed upside down against the house, where five children were inside.

Witnesses say Houghtling exited his truck, brandishing two large knives, one in each hand, and stabbed West repeatedly as he tried to run away. West died of his injuries.

Houghtling was charged with second degree murder and a slew of other charges. But on Monday, Houghtling pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

"After our investigation of the facts in this case and the investigation by the police department, it was our conclusion that the events that occurred just minutes before that, given the standard that the defendant has in this situation, they would have been able to prove that he in fact acted under extreme emotional disturbance," Bonavia said.

Houghtling's wife had recently left him after, she says, he beat her so badly she ended up in the hospital. The defense said an altercation with West and his wife, who took their child to a friend's house prior to the killing, led to the extreme emotional disturbance.

Despite the lesser charge, Bonavia said it doesn't mean Houghtling will be getting off easy. And the brutal nature of the account will be taken into account at sentencing.

"The probation department is going to do a review of Mr. Houghtling," Bonavia said. "We'll review that. The family of the victims, their wishes. We've been in touch with them throughout this process. So we're going to take all that into account."

Both the prosecution and the defense will make requests to the judge on Houghtling's sentence, which can be anywhere from five to 25 years in prison.

Houghtling will be back in court for sentencing March 15th. The prosecution has not yet decided what sentence they will recommend.

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