An angry argument over a boy's firewood chore is believed to have triggered a 10-year-old Ohio boy to shoot and kill his mother, police indicated today.
"Apparently there was a verbal argument about the mother wanting the boy to bring firewood into the house, which may have had a bearing on what happened," Holmes County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Nathan Fritz told ABC News. "Apparently the tenor of the argument was very heated."
Deborah McVay, 46, was found dead of a single gunshot wound to the head Sunday night in the family's home – an apartment converted from a two-car garage - in the tiny town of Big Prarie.
McVay lived in the three bedroom home with her two children, a 15-year-old daughter and the 10-year-old boy.
The boy appeared at his court hearing Monday wearing handcuffs, shackles and an overcoat which partially covered his orange detention uniform. His lawyer entered the equivalent of a not-guilty plea to the juvenile delinquency charge of murder.
The boy is expected to request a release to attend his mother's funeral which is expected soon, authorities said.
"He had anger issues, and she overlooked those anger issues," Tony Miller, McVay's brother, told the Associated Press. "It was her son. She loved him very much."
McVay defended her son despite his outbursts.
"He had some issues at school where he was on unruly in the class," Fritz said. At one point the boy "was told to go and take a time out. He had to be accompanied by the school principal. According to information, he picked up a dust pan and swat in the chest and the head of the principal. If that had been an adult who did that, it would be an assault charge."
Another time Deborah McVay called the sheriff's office because she was upset "with the actions with a school bus driver" because the driver had apparently stopped the bus and "physically put him in the seat." "She felt the bus driver overstepped his role." The mother did not file charges against the driver.
"She was a good mother and she worked with and helped handicapped and developmentally challenged people and did a lot of good things for people in the community and stuff," neighbor Ron Martin told ABC News affiliate WEWS.
Authorities who searched the home said they found a book on autism, which relatives told them was so she could learn more about her patients.
Authorities went to the family's house Sunday night after a neighbor called police to say the 10-year-old told them "he needed the squad and the police and that he had just shot his mom," according to Holmes County Sheriff Tim Zimmerly.
The boy's older sister was at the home during the shooting, and ran out of the house after the shooting. She is currently staying with relatives and is not a suspect in the murder.
The boy's attorney said he did not know the boy's reason for allegedly shooting his mother.
"We don't have enough details at this point for me to tell you. We don't know whether it was intentional or accidental, nothing at this point," defense attorney Andy Hyde told WEWS.
Boy Who Shot His Mom Had Four Rifles in His Bedroom
However, Holmes County juvenile assistant prosecutor Sean Warner said there is "nothing in the sheriff's report to indicate that it is anything other than intention."
Four weapons were found in the boy's bedroom, including the .22 caliber rifle found on his bed which is believed to be the murder weapon. Two other .22 calibers were mounted to the wall and a 12-gauge shotgun was also on the boy's bed.
Tony Miller said his sister had recently separated from her husband, Mike McVay. Prior to the separation she had argued with her husband over the guns in the boy's room, but the father allowed them to stay.
Holmes County is an agricultural area and home to the world's largest concentration of Amish. It is a region where many young boys hunt as soon as they are able to hold a gun. But it is illegal to hunt under the age of 16 without supervision and unusual that a young boy would have weapons in his bedroom.
"The fact that they were in his room, I don't believe is the norm here," Fritz said. "Logic would tell you they should have been secured somewhere else. Why they were not, I can't tell you."
Authorities are awaiting the results of the autopsy which was completed Monday. They are also awaiting the results of a blood test to determine whether drugs or alcohol were present in the boy's body during the time of the murder.
For now, the boy is currently at the juvenile detention facility in Richland County.
A fund has been created for the funeral expenses of Deborah McVay at PNC Banks across the country. You can visit any PNC branch for further details.