Wednesday, October 23 2013, 11:08 AM CDT
Arrest made in connection to accidental shooting death of five year old
ORANGE COUNTY-By: Leslie Rangel
Law enforcement officers in Orange County have charged a 19-year-old babysitter with endangering a child.
Deputies arrested Melissa Ringhardt this afternoon.
Tonight, she's in the Orange County Jail.
The Chief Deputy says Ringhardt was watching 5-year-old John Read at his family's home on Roberts Road yesterday outside of Vidor.
She'd been living with the family.
According to investigators, the babysitter had a 40 caliber pistol because she was afraid to be alone in the home. Relatives say she didn't own the pistol.
The Chief Deputy told us she fell asleep and left the pistol on a coffee table in the living room.
When she woke up, she found him dead in the living room with a gunshot wound to his head.
The Chief Deputy says the child accidentally shot himself.
Police swarmed the home Monday after a five year old boy accidentally shot himself in the head.
"People have the right to bear arms and with that comes great responsibility," Chief Deputy, Clint Hodgkinson says.
The Chief Deputy says those who aren't responsible face consequences.
"If someone somehow puts a firearm in a place where a child is able to get that weapon, you've committed an offense," Hodgkinson said.
Investigators say the babysitter left the 40 caliber pistol on a coffee table while she took a nap.
"We know he's innocent and we know at this point he did accidentally shoot himself," Hodgkinson says.
The baby sitter, 19-year-old Melissa Ringhardt is charged with endangering a child. A state jail felony.
"Someone has to be held responsible for this, because it's not something we can jsut let go, we have an innocent child's name on our hands and we gotta do something with this," Hodgkinson said.
The Chief Deputy says the question remains why or how could this could happen.
"Sometimes it takes something like this as tragic as it is for people to reflect on those things and these are the opportunities you take those times to say look what could we have done," Hodgkinson says.
"Trying to do you're very best, you will find that the accidents are at a very, very, very miniscule rate," Jim Hedrick, owner of J.J.'s Pawn Shop.
The owner showed us a few way to properly use a gun lock.
"You can rack slide back lock it leave the magazine in it and you can run the lock down the barrel of the gun and lock it and it's impossible to shoot. You can take the magazine out of the gun, which is what we suggest to do and run the lock down through the magazine so that way you can't load the gun or shoot the gun this way either," Hedrick said.
The pawn shop owner and investigators say the most important thing to remember is adults must do everything possible to protect children.
"What can we do in my home to prevent this, I don't want this to ever happen to my kid," Hodgkinson said.
A judge hasn't set bond for the babysitter.
A 5-year-old boy's babysitter was arrested and booked Tuesday for state jail felony abandoning or endangering a child as part of an investigation into 5-year-old John Allen Read's accidental shooting death Monday, according to the Orange County Sheriff's Office.
The investigation lead investigators to file a case with the Orange County District Attorney's Office, charging Melissa Ann Ringhardt of Vidor, Chief Deputy Clint Hodgkinson said.
Investigators were able to obtain an arrest warrant for her and she was located at an address in the 1600 block of Willowbend in the Vidor area around 3 p.m. Tuesday, Hodgkinson said.
She was arrested and transported to the Orange County Jail Facility and bond had not yet been set.
Ringhardt had been living with the Read family in their home for the past few months and was left in the home with 5-year-old John Read and another 6 month old child belonging to Kayla and Joe Read on Monday, Hodgkinson said.
Ringhardt stated to investigators that she was carrying a handgun in the home that day because she was scared of being home alone. Relatives say she didn't own the handgun.
Ringhardt left the handgun, a semi-automatic .40 caliber pistol, on a coffee table in the living room and went to the bedroom to take a nap and when she woke she noticed that she didn't see John around the house, Hodgkinson said.
She began looking until she found him deceased in the living room with the fatal gunshot wound, Hodgkinson said. The 6 month old child was unharmed.
Ringhardt carried both children to the grandparent's house to get help, Hodgkinson said.