A 28-year-old New Orleans mother is being charged with second-degree murder after her 5-year-old daughter died of a supposed self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head while being locked inside a room with a loaded handgun.
The mother, Laderika Smith, allegedly admitted to having locked her daughter inside the room while she went shopping, according to police.
She returned to find her child lying on the bedroom floor with what the Orleans Parish coroner’s office believes was a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, the Advocate reports
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Initially charged with cruelty to a juvenile, Smith’s charges were upgraded to second-degree murder after her daughter was removed from life support late Sunday, according to the Times Picayune
The .38 caliber revolver was reportedly being stored at the home by a relative, who was keeping it for another individual.
The relative, Leon Warren, told reporters that he had stored the handgun up high, away from where he thought a child could reach it.
"I was at work. I wasn’t even here," Warren told the Advocate. "I’m feeling (messed up) by this child being dead, period."
Recalling the incident, a neighbor of Smith and former Marine told the Advocate that he heard "one shot, small caliber."
Upon hearing the news, another neighbor said they heard the mother scream, "Lord help me, my child is dying!"
Police have not released the victim’s name due to her age, however residents in the area said they commonly referred to her as "Sweety."
"She was a sweet, beautiful little girl," the mother’s cousin, Danielle Carter, told WWLTV.
"All kids are good no matter what. But she didn't deserve this."
"It's hard when kids are involved," Carter added. "I fully believe that every parent that has a gun [should] keep it out of kids' reach and keep them on a safety and a lock."
Another cousin of Smith's, Veranda Williams, added in an interview with WWLTV, "I am very shocked and just devastated that it happened in my family. It's very saddening."
Since 2005, police records indicate that the 28-year-old mother has been arrested on three different occasions for crimes that include theft and prostitution, WWLTV reports.
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