Man gets prison for killing uncle, torching body during fight over ATV ruts in driveway

A Missouri man who gunned down his uncle during an argument over ATV ruts in a gravel driveway — and later burned the victim’s body in a field — will serve 15 years in prison after making a plea deal with prosecutors.

Nicholas Preli, 27, was sentenced Monday after pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter, armed criminal action and evidence tampering in connection with the February 2017 death of 59-year-old Paul Fischer, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

Preli admitted shooting Fischer on his uncle’s farm in St. Charles County after a physical dispute when Fischer complained that Preli dug ruts in his gravel driveway while riding his ATV. Preli told police that Fischer had a hammer during a struggle between them, prompting him to shoot him as Fischer turned toward him.

Preli said he shot Fischer two or three more times to be humane, “like putting down an animal.”

Preli then hid Fischer’s body between pieces of farm equipment and returned about 12 hours later to retrieve it before using gasoline to set it on fire in a field across from the farm, where Fischer worked as the fifth-generation caretaker of the Fischer Family Farm, according to his obituary.

“He had many friends who he would do anything for and was totally devoted to carrying on the family’s farming business,” Fischer’s obituary read. “He continued his father’s tradition of putting in a large garden with the best sweet corn and 100 tomato plants.”

Preli’s attorney, Todd Ryan, said both families “didn’t want to see two tragedies” occur by seeing Preli serve a lengthy prison term.

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