A 26-year-old mother, devastated by the loss of her 4-year-old son who fatally shot himself with a stolen gun while she slept, will spend six months in prison after a Henrico County court found her responsible for the death.
In December, Tiara Danielle Jefferson, 26, was convicted of felony child neglect in the boy’s death. She has maintained her innocence since the fatal incident on May 7, 2018, entering an Alford plea. The plea means she does not admit guilt but acknowledges there is enough evidence to convict her.
“I don’t think it’s too strong to say this has already ruined her life,” Jefferson’s attorney, Jeffrey L. Everhart, said in court Thursday. “It haunts her.”
Henrico Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Toni Randall called Jefferson’s “deception” an aggravating factor in the case. She gave conflicting accounts of what happened the day when 4-year-old Demetrius Jefferson found a Glock .40-caliber semiautomatic pistol in a shoebox that had been placed on a shelf in a closet at the family’s apartment in the 200 block of North Laburnum Avenue. The boy fired a single round that struck him in the head.
Jefferson originally told police the gun was a family heirloom, but it turns out it was reported stolen in 2017 from a home in Richmond.
Also in her first statement to police, Jefferson said she didn’t hear a gunshot as she slept, aided by a prescription medication that had been provided to her from a friend. Later, Randall said Jefferson made statements that she might have heard the shot.
All told, Randall said, Jefferson left the child unattended for about three hours.
“If you accept what the Commonwealth says, no parent in America could go to sleep. That’s an extremely high standard to hold any parent to,” Everhart told Henrico Circuit Judge Richard S. Wallerstein Jr. “If you give her the maximum sentence, she will serve her time and come out, and be alone. If you give her time served, she will still be alone.”
Everhart said the case has bothered him personally as well. He told Wallerstein that Jefferson entered her plea against his advice — Everhart added that he thought the case against her was weak.
Jefferson faced between two and 10 years in prison, but since she has no prior criminal record, sentencing guidelines called for a term of imprisonment between one day and six months. She’s served a total of 60 days — 22 days when she was originally charged and another 38 when she missed an appointment with Everhart — which will go toward her sentence.