COLLIER COUNTY — To prosecutors, Jonathan Rowles knew what he was doing.
He knew the potential ramifications of putting 14 bullets in a rifle, pointing it at his mother and readying his finger on the trigger.
To Rowles' defense lawyers, the now-15-year-old took part in a tragic accident two years ago, the result of an immature decision to emulate his U.S. Marine heroes.
In about three weeks, a Collier judge will decide which picture fits Rowles, charged as a juvenile with manslaughter in the shooting death of his mother, Kelly Ann, 39. Rowles' four-day trial wrapped up with one defense witness and closing arguments Tuesday.
Collier Circuit Judge Ramiro Mañalich will consider the case until he renders a verdict Jan. 4.
During closing arguments, attended by more than a dozen family members, witnesses, sheriff's deputies and lawyers, prosecutors went step-by-step back through the evidence and Rowles' interview with police after the August 2010 shooting.
Prosecutors portrayed Rowles as a gun-savvy 13-year-old who consciously put himself in position to shoot his mother.
They counted all of bullets loaded into his father's .22 caliber rifle — "one, two, three, four" — all the way up to 14. They said Rowles went into a spot where he had a clear shot at his mother, behind and out of her sight. They recalled the force needed to pull the trigger, greater than the power needed to open a can of soda, and how Rowles ultimately fired the weapon, sending a hollow-point bullet into his mother's head.
"Take away any one of those acts," assistant state attorney Tammy Wilson said, "and she'd still be here today."
Rowles' defense sought to cast Rowles as a grief-stricken teen whose actions never rose to culpable negligence, which requires prosecutors to prove Rowles knew, or reasonably should have known, his actions could lead to death or great bodily harm. Rowles has said was pretending to be part of a U.S. Marine rifle spinning drill team when he pointed the rifle at his mother and accidentally pulled the trigger, thinking the safety was activated.
"He pulled the gun out, was flipping it around, playing with it, not intending to do anyone any harm," assistant public defender Justin Barger said.
To get a conviction, prosecutors can either prove culpable negligence or that Rowles intentionally committed the acts that led to his mother's death. Wilson said prosecutors believe they have proved either part of the negligence statute.
"The evidence is clear that there were certain acts that were done that caused her death," Wilson said.
Closing arguments came after Rowles' defense called their one and only witness, forensic consultant and former Florida Department of Law Enforcement firearms expert Terrance LaVoy. He called the decision by Rowles' father to leave access to a gun cabinet "a recipe for problems, in my estimation." Yet LaVoy said the rifle fired properly and the safety worked on all 10 tests he performed.
Mañalich said he wants to wait until after the holidays before rending a verdict. In juvenile trials, a judge, not a jury, decides guilt or innocence.
"It would be irresponsible for me, given the significant stakes in this case for both sides, not to take this matter under advisement for a brief period of time, review that evidence, and then come back with a ruling," Mañalich said.
Throughout the trial, Rowles became emotional on occasion, enduring at-times graphic testimony. His grandmother attended the entire trial, along with a few other supporters who popped in and out.
If convicted, Rowles faces several sentencing options, though none include prison time. He would be out of the juvenile justice system no later than age 21.