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2-Year-Old Fatally Shot In Head, Mother Charged With Neglect

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A Smith & Wesson .357 magnum revolver is displayed for customers to rent at the Los Angeles Gun Club on Dec. 7, 2012, in Los Angeles, California. Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

By Pritha Paul, International Business Times

The mother of a two-year-old was charged Thursday in connection to the child’s death.

The incident took place around 7 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, in 1700 block of Polk Street, Gary, Indiana. The toddler, identified as Jayla Miller, was fatally shot in the head.

Emergency services responded to the scene and the victim was initially transported to Methodist Hospital Northlake in Gary for treatment and later airlifted in critical condition to Comer’s Children Hospital in Chicago. Jayla died around 9:30 p.m. EDT, according to Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office.

The victim’s mother, Dashana Mattica Fowler, 22, was charged with one count of level one neglect of a dependent resulting in death and three counts of level six neglect of a dependent.

According to a probable cause affidavit obtained by the Chicago Tribune, when the police arrived at the scene, they found a loaded gray semiautomatic handgun on the bed, beside the victim’s body. They also discovered a hard, rock-like substances that looked like crack cocaine, a razor blade “commonly used for cutting crack cocaine” on a saucer on the dresser.

“This unfortunate incident involved an innocent young child and could have been easily avoided by keeping firearms away from children,” the police said in a statement. “Firearms are not toys and should always be considered loaded and secured away from children. Firearm safety and education is paramount.”

When the police interviewed the homeowner, who rented the place to Fowler, he said her boyfriend was a drug seller and he possessed a silver and black compact gun.

Fowler’s boyfriend, 39, whose name has not been released, told the investigators he had briefly stepped out of the house to buy gas and food and when he returned, Fowler would not open the door. He added he had to yell at her to open the door and both of them were talking, standing near the door, when they hear a loud “pop.”

Fowler corroborated her boyfriend’s story, adding that prior to opening the door, she was with her four children in the bedroom. After hearing the gunshot and finding the victim, Fowler said she ran out into the street, requesting people to call 911.

The court records further stated one of her sons dragged the victim’s body out of the house screaming, “My sister, my sister!” before Fowler's boyfriend picked the toddler up and put her back in the room, NWI Times reported.

Fowler also told the police that no one else had access to the bedroom. As for the gun found near the toddler, Fowler had told her children that it was a “BB gun.”

When Detective Laurie Reilly, of the Lake County Special Victim's Unit, interviewed Fowler's oldest son, the boy told him he was sleeping when his sister reached under the pillow, grabbed the gun and shot herself in the head.

However, according to Detective Alex Jones, evidence suggested it was not a possibility. “Based on the weight of the weapon and lack of stippling, I do not believe that Jayla shot herself," Jones wrote in the affidavit.

Secondly, based on the toddler's head wound, the barrel of the gun would have had to be at least two to three feet away when fired. "Third, the gunshot wound to the forehead was perfectly centered," Jones reported.

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