On Friday, February 5, 2016, an 11-year-old Jefferson County, Tennessee, boy was sentenced after being found guilty of first degree murder in the death of 8-year-old MaKayla Dyer, according to KTLA 5. The preteen will remain in a juvenile prison for the next eight years until he turns 19.
CNN reports that on October 3, 2015, MaKayla was killed in her yard after shots were fired at her from the boy’s home. MaKayla had been playing with her 11-year-old sister, a female friend, and the boy when he asked her to get her puppies, according to a court order obtained by KXAN.
After MaKayla, a student at White Pine Elementary, refused, the boy went to his home and obtained a 12-gauge shotgun and a BB gun. He told MaKayla and the others he was armed, but she laughed at him and said she did not believe the guns were real, KXAN reports. The boy then shot MaKayla slightly above the heart from a window inside his home.
The KXAN report notes the judge presiding over the case, Dennis “Will” Roach II, wrote in the court order that MaKayla’s mother, Latasha Dyer “…knelt on the ground and picked her child up, placing her child in her arms as she passed away.” The girl died just three weeks after celebrating her 8th birthday.
WATE TV reports that MaKayla’s mother said she had spoken to authorities at her daughter’s school about the boy bullying her, indicating, “He was making fun of her, calling her names just being mean to her…” She noted the boy had stopped “for a while and then all of a sudden… he shot her.”
According to KTLA, the boy’s great-grandparents have adamantly denied the allegations he had been bullying MaKayla.
Latasha Dyer further told WATE TV just days after the shooting, “She was a precious little girl, she was a mommy’s girl, no matter how bad a mood you were in she could always make you smile.” MaKayla’s mother added, “I want her back in my arms… hold and kiss your babies every night because you’re never promised the next day with them… I hope the little boy learned his lesson because he took my baby’s life and I can’t get her back.”
According to WREG, the boy’s grandparents said they did not believe their grandson pulled the trigger of the shotgun and claimed another child was the culprit, but Judge Roach argued the evidence did not support that notion. WREG reports that the boy threw the shotgun out of the window and it was subsequently picked up by another child, who handed it back to the boy, who threw it down again. The report also states that the boy then laughed at the girls after the shooting. According to KTLA, the sentencing document indicates the adults living in the home were inside watching TV while the incident took place.
Judge Roach found that the boy had knowledge of firearm safety, as he had gone on hunting excursions with his father and his grandfather, according to KXAN. He further stated in the court order that the boy desperately needs help and society as a whole needs him to obtain it. He wrote, “A child who commits first degree murder cannot be willy-nilly turned loose into society.”
Jefferson County Sheriff Bud McCoig told the Washington Post that the boy apparently obtained the 12-gauge shotgun from an unlocked closet where the weapon was being stored by his father. He said the murder had “taken a toll” on those investigating the crime and that each had only gotten “through it by the grace of God.”
KXAN reports that the boy’s great-grandmother stated that the family plans on filing an appeal regarding the case.
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