published Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

Update: Chattanooga parents found not guilty in child's death case (with video)

Samantha Wallace and Thomas Wallace sit in Judge Rebecca Stern's courtroom Tuesday on the first day of their trial.
Samantha Wallace and Thomas Wallace sit in Judge Rebecca Stern's courtroom Tuesday on the first day of their trial.
Photo by John Rawlston /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
Todd South updates

UNINTENTIONAL SHOOTINGS

A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study showed that 304 children under the age of 14 were killed in unintentional shootings in the United States between 2005 and 2009.

In May 2012, in Bradley County, Kydalynn Graham, 3, shot and killed herself by accident with her grandfather Tommie Graham's .45-caliber pistol.

Tommie, the girl's grandmother, mother and father all were indicted in the 3-year-old's death.

In January a Hamilton County grand jury did not indict Stan Nowell, who had been arrested in the accidental shooting death of his 2-year-old grandson Brennan Nowell. The elder Nowell had left a .40 caliber pistol on a chair, and the toddler accidentally shot himself.

  • photo
    Camron Michelle Dawn Wallace, 2, died after being shot in the chest by her 6-year-old stepbrother.
    Photo by Patrick Smith /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

  • Video: Employer speaks about family after death
    One day after 3-year-old Michelle Dawn Wallace died of a gunshot wound, Bob Haynes, the employer of the father, Thomas "Butch" Wallace, spoke to media outside the family's home on Tinsley Place in Chattanooga.

Update:

Jurors have found the parents of a toddler killed by her young brother not guilty of criminally negligent homicide.

The verdict comes after a two-day trial for Thomas Wallace, 25, and his wife, Samantha Wallace, in the 2010 death of 2-year-old Camron Wallace.

The pair could have faced one to six years if convicted.

Earlier coverage:

A prosecutor and two defense attorneys are fighting over whether a Hamilton County Criminal Court jury should hold responsible the parents of a 2-year-old girl who died when her 5-year-old stepbrother accidentally shot her in the chest.

The parents, Samantha and Thomas Wallace, wiped away tears as prosecutor Charlie Minor played an audio recording of Samantha's statement to police about what happened on the afternoon of July 12, 2010, in the couple's 2008 Tinsley Place home.

The couple's three children, the youngest Camron, her sister and 5-year-old stepbrother, had just finished baths and lunch.

Samantha Wallace sent the children to bed in their separate rooms for a nap.

The boy's room was hot. The window in his room was broken and his couple had no money to fix it. So Samantha told him to sleep in her room.

While getting clothes from the back laundry room, Samantha Wallace heard a pop.

The woman didn't think much of it, because there were tire shops nearby and a sound like that was common.

Then her world changed.

The older children came to her saying Cam-Cam was bleeding.

Samantha scooped up her youngest daughter, grabbed a phone and dialed 911.

Firefighters, paramedics and police arrived, but Camron had no pulse and died shortly after.

Within hours of her death Chattanooga police Det. James Tate interviewed Samantha Wallace. She described the scene and seemed shocked at what happened.

The older children each had .22 caliber rifles, she said. She and Thomas had explained to all three children that they should not touch a gun unless mommy or daddy was around.

Defense attorneys Dan Ripper and Steve Brown explained to jurors during opening statements that just days before Camron's death, a group of men came knocking on the couple's front door at 2 a.m., and there had been reports of home invasions.

Tinsley Place is considered a low-income, high-crime area, Tate testified.

After the incident, Thomas Wallace had taken the .45 caliber revolver from its storage place high in a closet and put it in his nightstand, wrapped in a towel.

Photographs the jury saw showed the fully loaded handgun, still holding the empty shell casing, that had fired the bullet that struck Camron in the chest.

"The only reason we're here today is because the state wants you to hold these parents criminally responsible for the death of their child," Brown told the jury in opening statements.

There will be no winners when the trial ends, he said.

"Because Camron Wallace died on that day," Brown said. "The facts are the facts and we can't sugarcoat them, but we also can't sugarcoat the reason why we're here."

The trial is being held in Judge Rebecca Stern's courtroom.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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