US man pleads not guilty in boy’s gun death case
TOMS RIVER, New Jersey (AP) — The father of a 4-year-old New Jersey boy who shot to death a 6-year-old neighbor with his father’s unsecured gun rejected a plea bargain Monday that would have required him to serve seven years in prison.
Anthony Senatore of Toms River pleaded not guilty in state Superior Court to six counts of child endangerment.
Senatore, 34, is accused of keeping a loaded .22-caliber rifle unsecured in his bedroom. That’s where his son found it in April, took it outside, and shot 6-year-old Brandon Holt once in the head.
Senator’s lawyer, Robert Ebberup, says Senatore is “deeply horrified over what took place and feels awful about it.”
“His feelings go out to the family,” Ebberup said. “Brandon Holt was a wonderful, wonderful little boy. We just hope that he’s in heaven right now; we’re sure he is.”
But the lawyer said Senatore should not have been charged with a crime.
“This is a civil case,” he said. “This does not belong in a criminal courtroom.”
Senatore did not speak during the hearing.
Prosecutors have offered Senatore a plea deal in which he would serve seven years in state prison. He rejected that offer and plans to proceed toward trial, his lawyer said.
Senatore faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
In addition to the gun used in the shooting, Senatore is charged with keeping five other guns unsecured in his house, where prosecutors say they were accessible to his children, ages 12, 8 and 4.
Holt’s family has filed a lawsuit against Senatore and his wife seeking more than $1 million, claiming their actions were reckless.
Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC