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Pistol owner plead not guilty in boy’s death

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SAN DIEGO — A Scripps Ranch man whose pistol discharged and mortally wounded a neighbor boy as the fourth-grader played with the weapon pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges of involuntary manslaughter, child endangerment and negligent storage of a firearm.

Todd Conrad Francis, — who remains free on $100,000 bail — faces seven years and eight months behind bars if convicted.

San Diego police said 10-year-old Eric Klyaz was handling a 9-mm gun in a garage at a condominium complex in the 10900 block of Ivy Hill DriScreen Shot 2013-06-25 at 7.31.00 PMve on June 4, along with Francis’ 9-year-old daughter, when it went off.

The Dingeman Elementary School student suffered a bullet wound to the chest and died at Rady Children’s Hospital a short time later, homicide Lt. Jorge Duran said. The other child, whose older brother was babysitting her at the time of the shooting, was unharmed.

Francis, 55, turned himself in last Tuesday and was freed after posting bail. Formal charges were filed last week.

“It’s just a very tragic incident,” said defense attorney Danna Cotman, who disputed the prosecution’s contention that the children found the gun loaded.

She said the gun and ammunition were stored separately, but was at a loss to explain how the two came together.

Judge David Szumowski denied a prosecution request that Francis have no contact with his 9-year-old daughter, instead ordering that the defendant not be alone when visiting the child.

Deputy District Attorney Teresa Santana said the girl is living with her mother.

“The judge basically felt that the child had been traumatized enough,” Santana told reporters. “He didn’t want to, in addition, have him (the defendant) not be available to have access to his daughter.”

A readiness conference was set for Aug. 19 and a preliminary hearing for Sept. 23.

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