SAN DIEGO — A former Scripps Ranch man whose gun discharged and mortally wounded a neighbor boy as the fourth-grader and the defendant’s 9-year-old daughter played with the weapon was sentenced Wednesday to four years in state prison.
Todd Conrad Francis, 56, pleaded guilty in February to a pair of felony child endangerment counts.
Judge Timothy Walsh denied a request to place Francis on probation and remanded the defendant into custody.
“There is no more serious case,” the judge said, noting that the victims — both the boy who died and the defendant’s daughter — were “as vulnerable as children could possibly be.”
Walsh said he believed Francis was remorseful, but struggled with the defendant’s recollection of how the weapon was stored and whether it was loaded when the children found it.
Walsh took issue with Francis’ statement that he didn’t think the children would find the gun, calling the shooting “preventable.”
“I can’t imagine losing a child,” the judge said.
Defense attorney Danna Cotman told the judge that if granted probation, Francis could be out in the community advocating for gun safety and educating gun owners on safely storing weapons.
Outside court, Cotman told reporters that Francis wants other gun owners to take precautions when storing firearms around children.
“His message is not so dissimilar to the court’s message, which is don’t be naive. Don’t think that your kids won’t go looking and make sure that you lock up your guns and make sure that you don’t have ammo or guns in a place that children can ever get access to no matter how safe you think it might be,” Cotman said.
But Deputy District Attorney Matthew Dix said Francis refused to “man up” and take responsibility for leaving the loaded weapon in the garage.
“His gross negligence caused the death of a child,” the prosecutor told the judge.
San Diego police said 10-year-old Eric Klyaz was handling a 9 mm pistol in the defendant’s garage at a condominium complex in the 10900 block of Ivy Hill Drive last June 4, along with Francis’ 9-year-old daughter, Cierra, when the gun went off.
The boy suffered a chest wound and died at Rady Children’s Hospital shortly afterward.
Francis’ wife, Susan, testified during a preliminary hearing last year that she got home about 3:30 p.m. and asked her 15-year-old son, Chad, to watch his younger sister while she ran an errand.
About 20 minutes later, she said she got a call from the teen, telling her to come back home because police were there and someone had been hurt.
Chad Francis testified he was upstairs using a computer and unaware that Eric had come over to play. The teenager testified that he had seen a gun case in the garage, but never saw a gun.
Mark Jones testified that he was fixing a neighbor’s garage door about 4:15 p.m. when he heard a shot and saw Cierra running out of the Francis’ garage, screaming.
Jones said he saw the boy on the ground motionless and started CPR.
A San Diego police officer testified that Todd Francis told him that the gun was hidden and he was sure it wasn’t loaded. Francis told the officer that he should have secured the gun better.
Dix said the gun’s magazine was tested and only Francis’ DNA was found on it.
Full story coming…