San Juan County DA's Office remains divided on charging father of shooting victim

Steve Garrison The Daily Times
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — The San Juan County District Attorney's Office remains divided over whether to prosecute the father of an 8-year-old girl accidentally shot in the neck by her younger sister.

District Attorney Rick Tedrow said most of the prosecutors in his office have looked at the case since it was referred to his office on Jan. 19 and have argued about it endlessly.

But they cannot agree on a decision.

"This is a real tough one," he said.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Dustin O'Brien said prosecutors are contemplating two charges: third-degree felony child abuse and negligent use of a deadly weapon, a petty misdemeanor.

Tedrow said that while his office believes it would be able to meet the burden of proof necessary to charge the father with child abuse, prosecutors are not certain whether there is enough proof to convict him.

"There is negligence," Tedrow said. "But does it rise to criminal negligence?"

The office must also weigh the needs of the victim and the needs of the community. Will a conviction deter the father from reoffending? Will it deter other members of the community from acting negligently?

Teresa Bean is the mother of the girl who was shot. She said her daughter returned to school this week, and she asked that the girl not be named.

Bean said her husband has suffered incredible guilt, and the family has removed all firearms from their home as a result of the accident.

"We are going to be taking family and individual counseling," Bean said. "He already feels a load of guilt. He almost lost a child. We both almost lost a child."

Bean's 8-year-old daughter was rushed to San Juan Regional Medical Center on Jan. 16 after being shot in the neck by her 6-year-old sister.

Bean said her husband first drove their daughter to Urgent Care, rather than call 911, because the family's phone had been disconnected, and the neighbors were not home.

Sheriff's Detective Lt. Kyle Lincoln said last week that the girls were helping their father clean the family's Flora Vista Home on the day the incident took place.

The 6-year-old picked up a rifle in the room and pulled the trigger, striking her sister once in the neck, Lincoln said.

Bean said the gun, a .22-caliber rifle, was placed behind a sofa by the girl's uncle, and he had forgotten to unload it.

Tedrow said detectives have told him the family is remorseful, and that will factor into the decision on whether to file charges.

He said prosecutors will meet with sheriff's detectives on Monday and discuss the case further.

Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and Follow him on Twitter @SteveGarrisonDT on Twitter.