Henrico County authorities believe the shooting death of a 2-year-old boy in January was an accident
and that convictions in the case yesterday will end prosecutions in the matter.
There was no physical evidence of who shot Kristofer L. Jefferson in an eastern Henrico home filled with children and with a long history of violent conduct
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Michelle L. Marken said Jefferson was shot when a sibling was moving a rifle.
Circuit Judge Burnett Miller III said he believed Ainalee Jefferson, the child's mother, when she testified that a longtime friend of hers, John A. Butler Jr.
, 24, acknowledged to her weeks after the shooting that the gun was his
But Butler denied on the stand that the gun was his, saying he had told Jefferson only that he would have stopped the shooting if he was aware that it was about to happen. He denied that he was aware the gun had come into the house, saying he was asleep most of the day on the living-room couch.
Miller convicted Butler
of possession of firearm by a violent felon and two misdemeanors -- a child-abuse charge tied to the shooting and a charge of recklessly handling a firearm. Butler, convicted of two previous felonies, will be sentenced Sept. 16. He faces at least five years in prison.
Butler is believed to have left the weapon outside the home, where it was found Jan. 25 by one or more of Ainalee Jefferson's seven children, who were at the home under the care of their grandmother, Denise Jefferson. Ainalee Jefferson was at work at the time of the shooting, about 4:40 p.m.
Yesterday, Denise Jefferson testified that she merely told the children, the oldest of whom was 9, to take the gun to her bedroom when they said they had found it. A short time later, a single shot felled the 2-year-old, whose oldest brother then ran to another room, where adults were watching television.
He said Kristofer had shot himself.
Denise Jefferson, 57, was arrested that day on neglect and other charges. In June, she pleaded guilty to felony child abuse and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. She was sentenced to a six-month jail sentence and will be released Wednesday
On the day of the shooting, according to court documents, Jefferson declined to call police; Butler and another man drove Kristofer to VCU Medical Center
, where he died.
According to a search warrant, police said there were indications the crime scene had been cleaned up; the gun had no fingerprints on it.