Judge sends San Diego Gun Owner to Trial for Death of Young Boy

The man responsible for the death of a young 10-year-old boy in Miramar Ranch, San Diego has been ordered to stand trial on the felony charges of involuntary manslaughter, criminal storage of a firearm, and child endangerment. According to prosecution, the owner of the gun, 56-year-old Todd Francis, had the gun stored in a negligent manner and had the gun loaded prior to the accidental shooting. Francis is currently out on bail as he awaits his conviction, which could be years of prison time. The young boy, Eric Klyaz, was playing with Francis’ daughter in the garage of Francis’ home when the incident occurred, around 4:15 p.m. on June 4th of this year. Repairing a nearby garage door at the time of the accident, Mark Jones testified that he heard the shot along with the screams of a young girl. At this time he ran over to find Eric lying on the garage floor with a gunshot wound on his chest and surrounded by boxes, furniture, and other items. Jones stated, “There was a gun. It was sitting on a sofa on top of what looked like some laundry.” He also told authorities who arrived at the scene that the hammer on the gun was pulled back. San Diego police Officer present at the scene, Vito Messineo, testified that he spoke to both the young girl and to Francis later on. According to Messineo, Francis told him the gun had been hidden and he was sure it was not loaded, stating, “If that kid dies, I don’t want to live anymore.” At the San Diego Superior Court hearing, the young girl attended with her mother and a dog used to comfort young witnesses, however declined to take the oath due to her traumatized and despondent nature. Francis’ criminal defense attorney aggressively argued that the evidence provided was exceedingly inadequate to support the claims against her client. Despite her argument and no testimony from the young girl, Judge Peter Deddeh later resolved that enough evidence was presented during the preliminary hearing to send the case to trial.

In the beginning of the hearing, Deputy District Attorney Mathew Dix presented several facts regarding the case that both the prosecution and the defense agree with, one of these being that a deputy medical examiner had determined that Eric was shot at intermediate range and it is unlikely he had shot himself. Francis’ wife, Susan, testified at the hearing as well, along with her teenage son who was at the house at the time of the accident. Susan told the court that she had asked her teenage son to watch his younger sister that afternoon while she ran errands. She was gone for a short time when her son called urging her to come home. Her teenage son testified to the court that he was upstairs in the family’s town home when police contacted him. He told them he didn’t know that his little sister had been playing with her friend Eric and that it was common for the children in their neighborhood to play together in their open garages. Assigned as the detective on the case, Brett Burkett spoke with Francis’ daughter while he was testing the children’s hands for gunshot residue, in an attempt to determine who fired the gun. Burkett said the young girl told him she may have but she was unsure, and found gunshot residue on her hands. At a later time, the young girl told a social worker that she and Eric were both playing with and looking at the gun when it fired off and that she did not put any bullets into it. All together, this case is an unfortunate and devastating situation that could very well have been prevented.

Sources:

“Gun Owner to Stand Trial in Boy’s Death”– UT San Diego, November 20, 2013
“Judge Orders Gun Owner to Trial” – UT San Diego, November 21, 2013