Seven months after her 6-year-old son wounded his teacher with her handgun in a Virginia classroom, the boy’s mother is expected to plead guilty to charges related to the incident on Tuesday. Deja Taylor, who was accused in April of felony child neglect and misdemeanor negligent storage of a firearm, is scheduled to appear in Newport News in the morning for a plea hearing. The January murder stunned the nation and shook this Chesapeake Bay area shipbuilding city. The case against Taylor is one of three legal actions pursuing accountability, including a $40 million lawsuit filed by a teacher against the school district for egregious negligence.
According to police, the first-grader wounded teacher Abby Zwerner while she sat at a reading table during a lesson. Zwerner, who was struck in the hand and torso, was hospitalized for nearly two weeks and underwent multiple operations. Moments after the murder, the child allegedly told a reading specialist who restrained him, “I shot that (expletive) dead,” and “I got my mom’s gun last night.” The student carried the firearm to school in his shark-themed knapsack, according to the police. However, it remains unclear how the 6-year-old obtained the firearm.
According to search warrants, Taylor told police she believed the firearm was in her purse, secured with a trigger lock, and on top of her bedroom dresser. She stated that she kept the gunlock key under her bed. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents, according to court documents, never discovered a trigger lock during their investigations. Taylor pleaded guilty in June in a distinct but related federal case to the unlawful possession of a firearm while under the influence of marijuana.
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Plea Deal Sought in Newport News Shooting Amidst Mitigating Circumstances
Taylor was pursuing a plea agreement with Newport News prosecutors. Taylor’s attorney, James Ellenson, stated in April that the shooting was preceded by “mitigating circumstances,” such as miscarriages and postpartum depression. Uncertainty exists as to whether Taylor will plead guilty to the same counts for which she was accused in April. Ellenson and the office of the local prosecutor did not respond to emails requesting comment. The maximum penalty for felony infant neglect in Virginia is five years in prison. The misdemeanor allegation for improper firearm storage entails a maximum jail sentence of one year.
Taylor stated in May on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that she feels culpable and apologized to Zwerner. Taylor stated, “That is my son, so as a parent I am willing to take responsibility for him because he cannot take responsibility for himself.” Ellenson stated that as part of her son’s care plan for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, a family member accompanied him to class every day. The week of the murder was the first time he did not have a guardian in class. Taylor explained that the decision was made because the youngster had begun taking medication and was meeting his academic objectives. Taylor stated on the program, “I would sincerely like to apologize.”