In a moment of unspeakable heartbreak for a young mother, Alexis Wiederholt rushed into a bedroom in her father’s Elmo, Missouri, home, where she had just put down her 9-month-old baby Corbin for a nap, only to hear a dazed apology from her five-year-old son, who had been playing the same room.
“I’m sorry, Mom,” the boy said. “I shot Corbin.”
Wiederholt then ran over to the playpen where she had left her sleeping baby, only to find the infant bleeding profusely from a gunshot to the head.
“I walked in and there was my baby, lying there, bleeding,” the 26-year-old mom said in an interview with NBC News.
“I had just hugged him in my arms five minutes before that.”
In the tragedy that took place Monday, the five-year-old somehow got his hands on a.22 caliber Magnum pistol owned by his grandfather, William Porter, who said that he kept the gun in a locked case.
Investigators are still deciding whether to bring charges in the baby’s death, but they have not said what the charges would be or who they would charge. As of Wednesday, they had not interviewed the five-year-old, whose name was not publicly released.
Alexis Wiederholt, who had traveled to her father’s home from North Dakota for National Guard duty, told NBC that she had no idea her dad kept a gun in the house.
“I didn’t know it was there until I turned around and saw it laying on the bed,” the grieving mom said.
“I don’t know why someone would have a loaded gun in the house while kids were around.”
Porter said he told the children not to play in his bedroom, where he says the gun was stored.
“I told the boys they weren’t supposed to be in my bedroom where I keep the gun cabinet and they knew it — but like I said, boys will be boys,” he said.
Neither investigators nor the mother of the boys yet has any idea how the five-year-old got his hands on the loaded weapon, or why he fired it, shooting his baby brother the head.
UPDATE: In March, Nodaway County Prosecuting Attorney Robert Rice decided not to press any charges either against mom Alexis Wiederholt or the baby’s grandfather, Bill Porter, according to KMA News.
“At no point did I feel that Alexis knew, or should have known, that there was a loaded pistol within the accessibility of the children,” Rice said. “At the end of the day, with Bill Porter being gone, he has no obligation. There is nothing criminal for him based on what happened in his house.”
Rice added, however, that the heartbreaking tragedy should serve as a teachable moment for gun owners.
“If you have a weapon, please use a gun lock,” the prosecutor pleaded. “Insure that the firearms you have are locked and out of the reach of children.
But Nodaway County Sheriff Darren White said that keeping firearms in the house is common in that rural region of Missouri.
“Firearms are great, it’s when people start leaving them loaded and unattended that things like this happen,” said White.
The CDC reports that about 62 children every year die as a result of gun accidents, according to the group Moms Demand Action, which also found that the majority of shooters in those gun deaths are under 14 years old.