FSU Student Accused of Shooting and Killing Friend Sentenced

By: Danielle Eldredge, Julie Montanaro Email
By: Danielle Eldredge, Julie Montanaro Email

UPDATED 7:30pm by Julie Montanaro

An FSU student is now headed to prison for accidentally shooting and killing a friend at a frat house.

Evan Wilhelm will do 20 years for the shot that killed Ashley Cowie and devastated her family.

"What happened is my fault, entirely," Wilhelm said.

Evan Wilhelm stood in a blue jail jumpsuit and tried to find the words to apologize to the parents of Ashley Cowie.

"I made the mistake that cost Ashley her life and um ... I would give anything in the world to undo this," Wilhelm said.

Wilhelm is accused of accidentally shooting and killing Cowie at an FSU fraternity house back in January 2011. He told police he was showing off a new light atop his semi-automatic rifle when it went off.

Cowie's identical twin sister was in another room when it happened. She took the stand and described the horror of finding her sister lifeless on the floor.

She says she checked for a pulse and there wasn't one. She started CPR but to no avail.

"When we got home later that night, my mother gave me a bath because my hair had Ashley's dried blood in it from trying to save her."

As she clutched a teddy bear filled with her sister's ashes, Amy Cowie asked the judge for the maximum sentence.

"I pray that you will see how this wasn't an accident. This could have been prevented," she said.

Keith Savino was struck in the arm by the same bullet that killed Ashley Cowie. He asked the judge to sentence Wilhelm to 20 years one for each year of Ashley's life.

That's ultimately what the judge did.
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6-15-2012 updated 5pm

Evan Wilhelm has been sentenced to 20 years and 10 years probation for the killing of Ashley Cowie

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UPDATED 6.15.2012

Ashley Cowie's identical twin took the stand and addressed most of her comments directly to Evan Wilhelm.

"I became a twinless tiwn," Amy Cowie said.

Amy Cowie described running into the room that night only to see her sister's black boots in the doorway and blood everywhere.

She says she checked for a pulse and tried to revive Ashley.

Amy Cowie said afterward there was blood on her face and hands.

"They kept telling me to wash it off and I said I didn't want to because it was Ashley's and I knew she was dead and that was all I had left," she said.

Amy Cowie brought a bear with Ashley's ashes in it to the witness stand. She clutched the bear and begged the judge to impose the maximum sentence.
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UPDATED 6.15.2012

Keith Savino testified that the same bullet that passed through Ashley Cowie's body lodged in his arm.

Savino says he still has trouble writing.

He says he will never forget the horror of seeing Ashley Cowie shot in front of his eyes.

Savino asked the judge to sentence Wilhelm to 20 years, one for each year of Ashley's life.

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UPDATED 6.15.2012

Ashley Cowie's parents took the stand and described in painful detail how their daughter's death has changed their lives.

"This is my permanent reality," her mother said. "No one knows the kind of hell our family has been through."

Cowie's mother said she fell to her knees in horror when she received a copy of the pre sentence investigation that noted Wilhelm still had no remorse for the shootings.

Dr. Robert Cowie described a deputy coming to his door the night of the shooting to notify him of Ashley's death. He said to this day he cannot turn on his porch light because he still imagines a deputy standing there.

A collage of photos filled a big screen in the courtroom and Dr. Cowie described each one, including his favorite of a little girl in a swim mask.
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6.15.2012 UPDATED

A Department of Corrections employee who prepared the pre sentence investigation and score sheet testified. He interviewed Wilhelm at the jail and recommended he get the maximum sentence because he says Wilhelm showed no remorse.
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6.15.2012 1:30pm

Officer Doug Kutchera was one of the first officers on scene. He says the entire fraternity house smelled like marijuana and Wilhelm appeared to be under the influence of either drugs or alcohol.

He says he sat in as officers interviewed Wilhelm in a bedroom. Kutchera said not once did Wilhelm ask how Ashley Cowie was doing but said repeatedly "my life is over."

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Updated 6.15.2012 12:30pm by Julie Montanaro

Evan Wilhelm spoke directly to the family of Ashley Cowie. He said not a day has gone by that he hasn't wanted to talk with them.

He said "No question what happened is my fault entirely. It's mine and mine alone."

"I was thoughtless. I was wrong," he said, "I would give anything in the world to undo this."

Wilhelm asked the Cowie's to try to forgive him.

The Cowie's started sobbing when prosecutors pulled out the semi-automatic weapon that Wilhelm fired that night. It had a 30 round banana clip in it.
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June 15, 2012 - Noon

An FSU student will be sentenced later this afternoon for accidentally shooting and killing his friend. Evan Wilhelm is facing up to 35 years in prison for shooting Ashley Cowie in January 2011.

Wilhelm has already entered a plea to manslaughter charges in Cowie's death. She was killed at Heritage Grove. Police say Wilhelm was showing friends a new light on his gun when it went off. He told police he did not know it was loaded.

The courtroom is packed as witnesses take the stand. Wilhelm's family members, friends and co-workers are testifying. They say Wilhelm is "crushed" by what happened and have asked the judge to be merciful in his sentence. Cowie's family and friends are expected to take the stand later this afternoon.

There are so many people expected to testify during the sentencing hearing that the courtroom has been reserved for the rest of the day.

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UPDATED 11:30am by Julie Montanaro

A family friend took the stand and told the judge that Evan was "crushed" by what happened. He asked the judge to consider "the good he could do" by talking with college students about the dangers of guns.

One of Wilhelm's co-workers at Goodwill says she "could hear his heart breaking" every time he talked about the shooting.

Wilhelm's grandmother and pastor have also taken the stand.

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Updated 6.15.2012 10:55 am by Julie Montanaro

Evan Wilhelm is set to be sentenced today for accidentally shooting and killing a friend at FSU's Heritage Grove last fall.

Ashley Cowie was shot in the chest and killed in January 2011. Arrest reports indicate Wilhelm was showing friends a new light on his gun when it went off. Wilhelm told police he did not know the gun was loaded.

Nearly two dozen of Cowie's family and friends are in courtroom 3G. Wilhelm's family and friends number in the dozens too and are filling the rest of the seats.

Wilhelm just walked in wearing a blue jail jump suit.

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Tallahassee, Florida - June 15, 2012 -

An FSU student accused of accidentally shooting and killing a friend is expected to be sentenced today, June 15th. Eyewitness News has a reporter on the story, stay with WCTV for details.

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Tallahassee, FL--4/26/12

An FSU student accused of accidentally shooting and killing a friend entered a plea in court today.

Evan Wilhelm was arrested last year and is accused of killing Ashley Cowie at a gathering in Heritage Grove.

Wilhelm pled no contest today to manslaughter, possession of a firearm and culpable negligence.

Wilhelm will be sentenced June 15. Prosecutors say he faces up to 35 years in prison.

Click here to read the original story.

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Tallahassee, FL--1/09/12

Today marks the anniversary of Florida State student Ashley Cowie's death.

One year ago Cowie was at the Lambda Chi fraternity house in Heritage Grove when police say Cowie's friend Evan Wilhelm accidentally shot and killed her. FSU students say January 9th, 2011 is a day that will forever be etched in their minds.

"I feel like it was very quiet. Everyone was very down and shocked and confused. No one really knew like the whole story like right away," said FSU student Katie Hippelheuser.

Wilhelm is currently behind bars on charges of manslaughter, possession of a fire arm on school property, and possession of marijuana. His court date is May 7th.


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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by Cindy Location: Ponte Vedra on Jun 17, 2012 at 08:57 PM
    I think back about all of the stupid,yet innocent not intentionally mistakes all of the kids have done in there college years and it was an unfortunate accident . Everyone has lost, including Evan, his family. Did you all forget about forgiveness. As far as the corrections officer stating no remorse from Evan, I have witnessed his remorse,totally feeling his responsibility for this tragic incidence which unfortunately caused a death. However, anyone present that evening is all responsible for the situation as do they not understand the word NO we are not of age to drink, or smoke or have guns? Stop blaming one and take what happened that night as part of your own responsibility of not allowing it to happen again. Therefore you ask for maximum sentencing for Evan, why? Does that benefit you and everyone in this world or does it just make you feel better?
  • by really good ideal Location: fl on Jun 17, 2012 at 04:50 PM
    maby the college kids should sober up and come down in leon. maby we should close all the bars in tally.
  • by jimmy Location: ga on Jun 17, 2012 at 02:41 PM
    so what does 20 years mean under state guidlines? i am guessing 7 to 12 years. federal would be 18 years.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Jun 17, 2012 at 03:58 PM in reply to jimmy
      He has to serve 85%.
  • by The Truth on Jun 17, 2012 at 01:03 PM
    She shouldn't have been in a frat house, those guys are just predators and she was the prey, but most females don't realize how sleezy the whole frat system is, it's just a hookup party for the guys and their avenue to prey on women. Don't say "You don't know what you're talking about", unless you've been in frat meetings (I have), you have no clue what the whole point is (for the guys). I was in for a minute but backed out after finding out how sleezy it was, the women are just the prey and most are too dumb to realize it or have too little morals to care. He is the bad guy but she could've picked a better way to live her life instead of being a piece of meat for frat boys. Most men are scum, why exposure yourself to so many that are known sleezeballs like most frat guys? I'll never understand it.
  • by Responsible Gun Owner on Jun 17, 2012 at 12:58 PM
    "The gun went off", uh, no, the gun didn't just "go off", this idiot pointed the gun at her and pulled the trigger. Quit demonizing guns, you have to point a gun at someone and pull the trigger for it to "go off" and kill someone. Guns don't just "go off", they have to be fired by someone. This dummy wasn't mature enough to own or handle a gun, you NEVER point a gun at someone whether you think it's loaded or unloaded, and you certainly don't point a gun at someone AND pull the trigger. He gives responsible gun owners (most gun owners) a bad name.
  • by LegalWatcher Location: TLH on Jun 17, 2012 at 09:59 AM
    Hold up wait on minute. What happened to the 10-20-LIFE law? That's a "mandatory" sentencing, according to what judges say when they hand it out. How did this kid avoid a LIFE sentence for KILLING someone, when so many others in prison right now got it for WOUNDING someone? UNEQUAL JUSTICE IS AN INJUSTICE.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Jun 17, 2012 at 04:10 PM in reply to LegalWatcher
      He was being an idiot and showing off the gun and didn't realize it was loaded. Although very stupid, it wasn't intentional. Pulling a gun during a holdup and pulling the trigger is a different crime!
  • by Frances on Jun 17, 2012 at 06:56 AM
    They should get rid of frat houses. What's the purpose of them, really? You supposedly go to college to get an education right? Not to get drunk and act like fools. With the drinking problem we have with college students in this town (most of it underage), it's a miracle we don't see more things like this!
  • by SNA on Jun 17, 2012 at 04:31 AM
    Praying that Amy gets some much needed help. She's had a horrible and traumatic experience.
  • by so many lives lost and ruined Location: ga on Jun 16, 2012 at 11:07 PM
    all i got to say is thank you god for looking out for me and others on the highwaysand other places when i poured that posion down me for 20 years in the 80's i lost alot of friends.
  • by Chelsea on Jun 16, 2012 at 08:35 PM
    I agree. This judge was an executioner.
    Hard to understand when compared to other sentences for worse and intentional acts.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Jun 17, 2012 at 08:43 AM in reply to Chelsea
      You can visit your friend in prison. I don't believe the judge executed him. I will reread the article though. I do, however, remember reading that a young woman by the name of Ashley Cowie is dead. Yes? Shot at close range, I believe. By someone, your friend, who had a gun that he shouldn't have had at a frat house. Was showing it off. Loved that new light. Happened to be drunk and stoned. Friends told him to put it down. He knew better. Ashely is dead. Another young man shot. If he had been standing a couple inches over he likely would have been dead too. Again, I will reread the article, but I really think it might be you that might want to reevaluate the blame here. Put your sister, your best friend in the place of Ashley. Still no big deal? Your friend will get out of prison. He will have a life. Can Ashley Cowie say the same? He made that choice for her.
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