April 25, 2011 -- A toddler blamed for fatally shooting his mother keeps asking for his mom, while police are asking whether a 2-year-old boy was really capable of holding and firing the gun.
The boy's father, Troy Bailey Jr., may be charged for negligence for leaving his gun out where the boy allegedly picked it up and fired it. A gunshot struck his mother, Julia Bennett, 33, killing her instantly last Wednesday.
"This is not a clear cut case," said Tania Rues, spokeswoman for the Police Department in Miramar, Fla. "There is a still a lot of work we need to do to determine if this was an accident or not."
Bailey has a license to carry a concealed weapon. He told police he briefly left the gun unattended on a table while visiting Bennett's home. Bailey, who was not married to Bennett, told police he watched as the boy picked up his pistol and shot the woman. The boy's name was not released by police.
"We have interviewed the father at length," said Rues. "He came in voluntarily."
Police said there was more to the investigation that simply determining if the child could and did pick up the gun and pull the trigger. The gun was a Glock 9mm, which weighs three pounds when loaded and takes 4.5 to 5.5 pounds of pressure to pull the trigger.
"Most people assume you can just test and see if the child had [gun-shot residue] on his hands, but there are mitigating factors," said Rues.
She said that even if it is determined that the boy pulled the trigger, the father could still be charged with negligence.
Police said there had been no previous reports of violence at the home.
The boy was initially taken into custody by the Department of Children and Families, but following a hearing Friday was put in the custody of a maternal aunt.
Bailey did not attend the hearing, in which a judge said the father temporarily could not have contact with the boy.
Bennett's family is struggling to cope with the tragedy. "By the grace of God we are still holding on," Angela Thompson, Bennett's sister told WSV-TV.
"He just keeps calling her name, saying, 'Mom, mom," said Marva Anglin, another sister.
The case comes on the heels of several other shootings by small children who got their hands on firearms.
On April 19, a kindergartner was among three Houston elementary school students injured when the loaded pistol he brought to school fired when it fell from his jacket pocket.
Last month, a 4-year-old in Baltimore, Md., shot himself in the face and died after playing with an unattended loaded pistol.