The young woman who was accidentally shot and killed by her 2-year-old son with her own gun is remembered as a loving mom and a scientist who was a star student at her rural high school in Idaho.
Veronica Rutledge, who police say died after her toddler removed a concealed handgun from her purse at Walmart and shot her, worked at the Idaho National Laboratory. She was also a responsible gun owner, her father-in-law said.
Terry Rutledge described the 29-year-old woman as a "beautiful, young, loving mother" in an interview with The Associated Press.
"She was not the least bit irresponsible," he said. "She was taken much too soon."
Rutledge, who lived in Blackfoot, Idaho, died at the Hayden store Tuesday. She grew up about an hour away in St. Maries, where she was the valedictorian of her class at Kootenai High School, according to ABC affiliate KXLY. She graduated from North Idaho College with a chemistry degree in 2010, according to a commencement program, and has since been listed as a researcher or author on multiple scientific papers.
"The lab is very saddened by this tragic event and we offer our deepest sympathies to the family," Nicole Stricker of the Idaho National Laboratory told ABC News in a statement.
Rutledge and her husband, Colt Rutledge, married in 2009. Facebook photos show her in hunting gear or posing outside or with her son, as friends and family members post mournful messages.
Police said her son was sitting in a shopping cart in the electronics section of the Walmart when he removed the gun from her purse and fired the weapon just once, killing his mother instantly.
Walmart called the woman's death a "very sad and tragic incident" and said it is working with the Kootenai County Sheriff's Office to investigate the incident.