MARTINSVILLE, Ind. – The mother of a 6-year-old boy fatally shot by his 11-year-old brother was charged Wednesday with neglect as an Indiana prosecutor said she failed to protect her children from the violent tendencies of her oldest son, who had a history of threatening his younger siblings.
Amanda Vandagrifft was being held in Morgan County Jail on $40,000 bond on one count of neglect of a dependent resulting in death and three counts of neglect and was due in court Wednesday afternoon. Boyfriend Matthew Boulden also was being held on $7,500 bond on three neglect charges. A jail officer did not know if either one had an attorney.
Prosecutors say Vandagrifft's 11-year-old son shot his younger brother in the head with a .22 caliber rifle on June 30 while neither adult was at the home near Martinsville. Court documents said the 11-year-old was trying to scare the younger boy into cleaning his room when he shot him between the eyes. The boy told police he didn't realize the gun was loaded.
A probable cause affidavit said the couple left a gun and ammunition in a bedroom where the children had access to them and left the children alone for several hours at a time. The bedroom door was secured only with a rope belt intended to keep out the dog, not the children, the document said.
The 11-year-old often threatened his younger siblings with guns and allegedly held knives to their throats while babysitting them to get them to do their chores, the document said. His 9-year-old sister told police that he had been threatening the other children increasingly in recent months, and once when he threatened to shoot the 6-year-old boy she had stepped between them and told him that if he was going to kill the younger boy he would have to kill her first, according to the affidavit.
Morgan County Prosecutor Steve Sonnega said Vandagrifft was aware of the volatile situation and allowed it to continue.
"She had duty to protect her kids and she had certain knowledge of a dangerous situation," Sonnega said.
"We're not saying that every time there is an accident there is a parental problem," he added. "But there are certain situations under the law that when there is evidence of parental knowledge that the parents have a duty to act to protect their children."
The 11-year-old is scheduled to be tried in September on juvenile charges of murder and reckless homicide. Sonnega announced last week that he wouldn't seek to move the boy into adult court because of his age, maturity and cognitive development.