DA explains why child death cases get varied charges

WICHITA, Kansas – We’re asking tough questions about cases where children die and what charges are filed.

While every case is different, we looked into our files, and found that back in 2003, a toddler died after being left in a hot car in Park City.

The misdemeanor charges in the case were dropped against the parents.

Last week, what seems like a similarly sad situation, a toddler dies after being left in a hot car and the foster parent is now charged with first degree murder.

In April of this year, a young child was shot and killed with a gun that was left loaded in a bedside drawer and was found by other kids.

No charges were filed.

And just days ago, another tragic accident – a child killed when he found a handgun in a cabinet and shot himself.

The charge in that case is felony possession of a firearm, filed against the man police said owned the gun.

Why the difference in charges, or lack of charges, in these cases?

KSN went right to the source, the District Attorney’s Office, for answers.

Officials said the differences in the charges reflect the differences in the cases and that the facts of all of these deaths have dictated the legal response from the state.

The cases are similar a car left in the heat in July with a child inside and the child dies.

But the outcomes are markedly different starting with last week’s case.

The allegation is that he recklessly permitted a child to be placed in a situation in which their life is in danger and in the course of that behavior the child died — that’s a felony murder under Kansas law.

In the other case, more than a decade ago in Park City, the charge of one count of misdemeanor child endangerment was ultimately dropped.

When asked about the difference in the cases, officials say there’s no doubt they made the right call.

“Facts are very specific to each individual case, I know the case you’re talking about, I’m not going to get into the details of a case that’s 11 years old, obviously the last administration handled that, but we could have another case tomorrow with a child left in a car that dies that doesn’t warrant a murder charge, every set of facts are unique to the case,” said Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett.

On Wednesday, officials with the District Attorney’s Office told us that no charges had been filed in the shooting death back in April that left a 19-month-old dead after a three-year-old got a hold of a gun.

Now, we’re learning there’s more to the story of why no charges have been filed. It hasn’t been brought to the DA’s office yet, but police officials said they expect it will be presented within the next two weeks.

“It’s not that guns on a shelf are in one category, cars are in another category, and we just have sort of compartments of facts here. It depends on the facts of the case and the individual set of circumstances,” said Bennett.

Bennett said that while gun locks are good public policy, there are no laws in place that say one has to be used, or rule that a gun has to be stored at a specific height or in a certain place.

He also notes that charges can be filed at any time with these cases and if any are found that are appropriate, they will be filed.

blog comments powered by Disqus