Home News Mother of 6-Year-Old Who Shot Teacher Pleads Guilty to Child Neglect

Mother of 6-Year-Old Who Shot Teacher Pleads Guilty to Child Neglect

by Staff

The mother of a 6-year-old who shot his first-grade teacher in a Virginia classroom pleaded guilty on Tuesday to a charge of felony child neglect, according to prosecutors and a lawyer for the mother.

The mother, Deja Taylor, 26, appeared in court in Newport News, Va. Prosecutors for the commonwealth agreed to drop a second misdemeanor count of child endangerment involving a loaded weapon, they said in a statement.

Ms. Taylor’s lawyer, James. S Ellenson, said that while the child neglect charge would carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison, prosecutors had agreed not to deviate from the state recommendation of one to six months imprisonment, given her lack of criminal history.

“She’s upset,” Mr. Ellenson said Tuesday, noting that Ms. Taylor’s child, who was undergoing therapy, was now in the full custody of his grandfather. “It’s a big mess.”

Ms. Taylor’s guilty plea is the latest development in a case that has drawn national attention amid debates over guns and school safety, especially given her son’s young age and his access to the weapon.

The shooting took place on Jan. 6, when the boy, a student at Richneck Elementary School, took out the gun, aimed it and fired at his teacher, the police said. The teacher, Abigail Zwerner, was seriously injured by the single bullet that passed through her hand and struck her chest.

“It’s changed me. It’s changed my life,” Ms. Zwerner told NBC’s “Today” show in March. She has filed a separate lawsuit seeking $40 million in damages from school officials, accusing them of gross negligence.

Last month, Ms. Taylor pleaded guilty to separate federal criminal charges for using marijuana while owning a firearm and making false statements about drug use when she bought the gun. She was indicted by a grand jury in April following an investigation by the Newport News Police Department and the office of the commonwealth attorney.

The child will not be charged, the commonwealth attorney said.

Sentencing for both the state and federal cases are scheduled for October. Ms. Taylor could face up to two years for the federal charges, Gene Rossi, the lawyer representing her in that case, said.

Mr. Rossi said he and Mr. Ellenson were hopeful that judges would allow Ms. Taylor to serve both sentences concurrently. “That she has taken responsibility for both cases I think will help her in the eyes of both judges who will be sentencing her,” he said on Tuesday. “Ms. Taylor feels horribly about the consequences of her son getting a hold of the gun.”

Howard E. Gwynn, the prosecutor, said that his office was still investigating the shooting. “The safety of our schools is of paramount importance, and we will continue to support the victims as they work through the effects of this incident,” he said.

Jacey Fortin contributed reporting.

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