Lawyer Details Mom's Struggles Before Son, 6, Shot Teacher

She was arraigned on charges of child neglect and failing to secure a handgun on Friday
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 14, 2023 12:56 PM CDT
Lawyer Details Mom's Struggles Before Son, 6, Shot Teacher
Police look on as students return to Richneck Elementary on Jan. 30, 2023, in Newport News, Va.   (Billy Schuerman/The Virginian-Pilot via AP, File)

The mother of a 6-year-old Virginia boy who shot and wounded his teacher had a series of miscarriages and post-partum depression in the year before the shooting, her attorney said Friday, after she was arraigned on charges of child neglect and failing to secure the handgun her son used in the shooting. Police say the boy fired a single shot at his first-grade teacher, Abigail Zwerner, on Jan. 6, striking her in the left hand and chest. A grand jury indicted Deja Taylor this week, and she was released on a $5,000 bond after turning herself in Thursday.

The 25-year-old appeared somber and stood with her hands clasped behind her back as the two charges against her were read in Newport News Circuit Court. She did not speak except to say "no, sir" in response to a question from the judge, reports the AP. After the hearing, she quickly walked away from a scrum of reporters and TV cameras without commenting. Her attorney, James Ellenson, said his client wants to reach a plea agreement with prosecutors and hopes they will consider what he called "mitigating circumstances."

He cited a number of miscarriages Taylor had, including one following an ectopic pregnancy that resulted in a hospital stay in January 2022. An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a pregnancy develops outside the uterus, often in a fallopian tube. "That resulted in postpartum depression and that has been a large factor in a number of the events that led up to the unfortunate event on January 6," said Ellenson, per WTKR. Ellenson has requested a trial before a judge instead of a jury. A trial date of Aug. 15 has been set. The felony neglect charge is punishable by up to five years in prison. The misdemeanor charge of recklessly storing a firearm is punishable by up to one year in jail.

story continues below

Ellenson has said the mother believed her gun, which was legally purchased, was secured on a top shelf in her closet and had a trigger lock. It is unclear how the boy got the gun and was able to take it to school on the day of the shooting. Ellenson said the boy has an "acute disability" and was under a care plan that included his mother, father or grandfather accompanying him to class every day. The week of the shooting was the first when a parent was not in class with him.

(More school shooting stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.