SLAUGHTER, LA – Just days after an 8-year-old boy shot and killed his grandmother after playing video games, a Louisiana judge said Monday the child can continue to live with his family.
Under state law in Louisiana, where the shooting occurred, the child cannot be charged.
“He’s distraught. It’s really taken a toll on him. He looks visibly shaken,” said East Feliciana Parish District Attorney Samuel D’Aquilla.
“It was determined that he did the shooting and it was an accident. He thought it was a toy gun, a play gun,” D’Aquilla told CNN.
“It’s not a crime if he’s under 10 years old. We’re still trying to figure out how to help this juvenile and his parents,” the district attorney added.
The child is not being publicly identified.
In a closed proceeding Monday, the district attorney asked for a court hearing to begin the process to get whatever help is available to the family and to the child. The family told the court that the boy is getting counseling. The boy is expected to enter a state program called Families in Need of Services, or FINS, according to D’Aquilla.
FINS is a Louisiana state program not associated with the criminal justice system.
“We presented evidence today and the judge said the child can live with his mother and father,” said D’Aquilla.
“It’s not a bad environment. They have two other children,” he said.
Last Thursday, Marie Smothers, 87, was caring for the boy at her residence in a mobile home park in Slaughter, Louisiana. Smothers was watching television in the living area and the boy was playing the video came Grand Theft Auto IV on another television set behind her just minutes before the incident, according to a news release from the East Feliciana Parish Sheriff’s Department.
The gun was a .38-caliber handgun, according to the sheriff’s department.
“The gun was in a pouch or a purse. where he could obviously pick it up,” said District Attorney D’Aquilla.
“He shot her from about three or four feet away, according to the autopsy,” he said.
The boy’s grandmother was the mother of the child’s father, according to a statement from the sheriff’s department.
“By accounts of relatives of the victim, as well as friends of the family, the victim and the juvenile had a normal, loving relationship and even shared the same bedroom,” D’Aquilla said.
Because the child is only 8 years old, he does not even fall under Louisiana’s juvenile justice system, which is meant for offenders starting at age 10.
So, by entering the FINS program, officials say, it is generally hoped that the family and the boy can get any help they will need.
“The family can be put under a plan of counseling or other types of services and they can also get supervision at that time,” said Martha Morgan, chief counsel for the Louisiana Office of Juvenile Justice.
“We try to get them the services they need to keep them from becoming juvenile delinquents,” she told CNN.
The next hearing in the case has been scheduled for September 10.
By Rich Phillips and Sara Sidner
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