RICHMOND — A Henrico County grandfather whose .22-caliber pistol was used by his grandson to shoot and kill his 5-year-old granddaughter in October was acquitted of child abuse on Friday.
Victor F. Covelli, 59, said he was pleased with the outcome, but it’s hard to enjoy while he’s still mourning.
“All this is nothing,” he said in the hallway of the Henrico County courthouse, “when I’ve lost a grandchild.”
While the threat of jail time is gone, Covelli is still working to repair the relationship with his daughter, who did not attend the trial nor the hearing Friday.
Her son, 7 years old at the time, pulled the trigger, and her daughter, Camira Harris, was killed. Her three other children, ages 5 through 9 including Camira’s twin, witnessed the tragedy.
Police responded around 12:30 p.m. on Oct. 8 after the Highland Springs-area shooting was reported . Camira was taken to a hospital, but died.
Hours later, Covelli was distraught and still had the girl’s dried blood on his face.
A one-day trial was held on May 30 after Covelli pleaded not guilty. The prosecutor argued Covelli was responsible for the death because he left a loaded gun where the children could easily find it. At the conclusion of the evidence, defense counsel Jeffrey Everhart moved to strike the charge, saying the prosecution failed to prove its case.
“While the commonwealth’s case might show negligence it doesn’t show malice or intent to cause harm,” Everhart said.
Henrico Circuit Judge James Yoffy continued the case until Friday morning, allowing Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Toni Randall and Everhart to argue their positions in motions filed ahead of the hearing.
“The issue of this case is the awareness of the danger,” Yoffy said. “This was a close case. I can’t tell you how I’ve struggled with this case. It’s kept me up at night.”
Ultimately, he found that there was “not enough evidence to show this was a willful act.”