Virginia teacher shooting: Mother of 6-year-old who shot his teacher pleads guilty to state charge of felony child neglect

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Deja Taylor, the mother of the Virginia 6-year-old who shot his first-grade teacher in January, pleaded guilty to a charge of felony child neglect Tuesday.

Taylor’s 6-year-old son used her gun to shoot his teacher, Abigail Zwerner, on January 6 at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, leaving her with wounds to her hand and chest.

“My mom had that gun. I stole it because I needed to shoot my teacher,” the 6-year-old said after the shooting, authorities claimed during a statement of facts in court Tuesday.

Taylor purchased the gun and kept it on the top shelf of her bedroom closet, secured by a trigger lock, her attorney James Ellenson told CNN in January. But in their search of Taylor’s residence, authorities found no trigger lock and no key to a trigger lock, prosecutors said in court Tuesday.

The 6-year-old stood on a dresser drawer and took the gun from Taylor’s purse, they said. He brought the gun to school in his backpack, police said at the time.

The boy had been seen playing with a gun at his grandmother’s and said he wanted to go to a shooting range, authorities said.

The felony felony child neglect charge has a maximum statutory sentence of five years in prison. However, per a plea agreement, prosecutors have said they will not seek a punishment beyond the sentencing guidelines of six months.

Judge Chris Papile said he reserves the right to sentence outside that recommendation.

As part of a plea deal, Taylor previously pleaded guilty to federal gun charges. Sentencing on those charges will take place on October 18.

Taylor’s sentencing on the state charge is scheduled for October 27. CNN has reached out to her defense attorney for comment.

The boy, who is now in the custody of his great-grandfather, will not be criminally charged, Newport News Commonwealth’s Attorney Howard Gwynn has said.

The child has “extreme emotional issues” and is in therapy and showing improvement, Ellenson previously told CNN

Taylor has no criminal record and has cooperated with authorities since the shooting, Ellenson said in an earlier statement. Taylor turned herself in to police in April after the filing of state charges and was released after posting a $5,000 bond.


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