A 42-year-old woman who fatally shot her ex-boyfriend during an altercation at her Riverside home during which he tried to flee with their son pleaded guilty Friday to involuntary manslaughter.

Balinda Dawn Ballinger killed 41-year-old Thomas Laughrey of Riverside in February 2018.

In exchange for Ballinger’s admission to the felony count, the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office agreed to drop a murder charge and sentence-enhancing gun and great bodily injury allegations.

Superior Court Judge John Molloy scheduled a sentencing hearing for Jan. 5 at the Riverside Hall of Justice. The prosecution and defense have stipulated a sentence of one year in county jail and three years probation. Half of the incarceration could be served under home detention, according to the terms of the plea agreement.

Ballinger is free on her own recognizance.

According to testimony from the defendant’s 2020 preliminary hearing, on the night of Feb. 23, 2018, she and Laughrey were involved in a heated exchange inside her house in the 2000 block of Stratford Way, near Fairview Avenue.

Laughrey was inebriated during the encounter, according to investigators.

The victim and defendant had quarreled on prior occasions, resulting in alleged acts of domestic violence against Ballinger, according to the defense.

During their final argument, Laughrey grabbed the couple’s toddler son, whose identity was not disclosed, and tried to flee the house with him, carrying the boy sideways on his hip, according to preliminary hearing testimony.

Ballinger retrieved a handgun and leveled it at the victim, firing one time.

“The preliminary hearing testimony suggested that the shooting was not intentional,” Ballinger’s attorney, Virginia Blumenthal, told City News Service.

Laughrey was struck in the head.

The defendant immediately called 911, and the victim was taken to Riverside Community Hospital in grave condition. He lingered in a coma for three days before ultimately succumbing to his wound.

Ballinger was arrested without incident. She was released from custody in December 2020.

She has no prior documented felony or misdemeanor convictions in Riverside County.

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