Washington County VA

Trial begins in shooting death of 2-year-old

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Tenn. - The murder trial involving the shooting death of a toddler has begun in Washington County, Tennessee.

The trial started around 10:30 a.m. Monday with opening statements from Gene Scott, Defense Attorney, and Dennis Brooks, Assistant District Attorney.

According to their statements, Washington County, Tennessee rescue crews were called out to the Value Place motel on January 11, 2009 around 10 p.m. in response to a child not breathing. The boy's father, 29-year-old Christopher Mitchell, told investigators he was asleep when he heard a loud bang.

Mitchell told dispatchers that 2-year-old Jacob Mitchell wasn't breathing and that something was wrong with the child's face. When EMS arrived, Mitchell brought Jacob outside to them and told workers the child had fallen off a chair.

The first witness to take the stand was Capt. Dan Wheeley with the Washington County EMS. "Somebody behind me called for help, when I turned around, I was handed the young child," Wheeley said. "The injuries the child had, in my opinion, weren't consistent and were more severe than a fall."

Jacob died from a gunshot wound to the head.

According to prosecutors, Mitchell had a loaded gun in a cabinet in the kitchen where he thought Jacob couldn't reach it. "What you have to decide is, is this aggravated child neglect simply because a parent has a loaded gun in the home, the child finds the gun and accidentally shoots himself," Scott said.

"The proof probably not conclusively shows where the gun was in the room. But the proof will show this was a preventable death," said Brooks.

Mitchell pled guilty to tampering with evidence and identity theft charges. He pleaded not guilty to aggravated child neglect and felony murder charges.

He has been convicted of having a handgun as a felon.

He is expected to take the stand during the trial this week.

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