Phoenix Police Department spokesman Sgt. Vince Lewis gives a synopsis of the facts of the investigation into the shooting death of 9-year-old Landen Lavarnia on March 20, 2017. Hannah Gaber/azcentral.com
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Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams and Sgt. Vince Lewis discuss the case against Kansas and Wendy Lavarnia, whose 9-year-old son Landen was fatally shot by his brother. The parents are facing first-degree murder charges. Hannah Gaber/azcentral.com
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Kansas and Wendy Lavarnia, the parents of Landen Lavarnia — who was fatally shot by his 2-year-old brother — are facing first-degree murder charges after police found evidence they delayed calling 911 to clean up the crime scene.
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Police arrest parents of 9-year-old boy fatally shot in head by toddler.
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Valerie Corona and her two children, who know the 9-year-old neighbor who was shot in the head, stand in front of the house where the shooting took place and talk about the little boy, Tuesday, March 21, 2017. Tom Tingle/azcentral.com
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Video shows Wendy Lavarnia appearing before a judge for the first time since her arrest. She is accused of putting a firearm within the reach of two young children, one of whom shot their 9-year-old brother in the head on March 20, 2017, in Phoenix.
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Facts of 9-year-old Phoenix boy Landen Lavarnia’s fatal shooting
Phoenix police officials comment on 9-year-old boy’s shooting death
Parents of boy, 9, shot in head facing murder charges
Police arrest parents of 9-year-old boy fatally shot in head by toddler
Family knows Phoenix boy who was shot
VIDEO: Mom arrested after tot shoots 9-year-old brother
The Phoenix couple charged with first-degree murder in the fatal shooting of their 9-year-old son pleaded not guilty Thursday morning in Maricopa County Superior Court.
The pleas were made before Commissioner Julie Ann Mata, who set their next court appearance for May 18.
The Lavarnias entered the courtroom separately. Their attorneys, Jamie Jackson and Clare Shum, stood between them, with two sheriff’s deputies standing behind them.
Landen Lavarnia was found shot once in the head March 20 inside their home near 35th and Rosewood avenues in northwest Phoenix.
The boy’s mother, Wendy Lavarnia, 28, originally told police she had placed a loaded 9mm handgun near her 2- and 4-year-old sons moments before the youngest boy picked up the gun and fired it. A bullet struck Landen in the head as he played video games a few feet away, she told police.
Investigators said Lavarnia and her husband, 31-year-old Kansas Eric Lavarnia, delayed calling authorities as they cleaned up blood and the scene while the boy lay fatally injured.
By the time Wendy Lavarnia called 911 at 3 p.m., the boy was in critical condition and her husband was not at home. She told investigators he’d gone out shopping. When he returned three hours later, it appeared he had a gunshot wound to his arm that was wrapped in a makeshift bandage of tissue paper and clear packing tape. Authorities said it appeared as though he had taken a screwdriver to the wound to disguise it.
Landen remained on life support at a hospital until he was pronounced dead the next day.
Wendy Lavarnia initially was booked into jail on suspicion of four counts of child abuse in connection with endangering her children, police said. Kansas Lavarnia also was taken into custody on suspicion of illegally possessing a weapon, because he is a convicted felon and had not had his right to a firearm restored.
The parents were charged with murder after an examination of the shooting revealed that a substantial amount of blood was cleaned up in the house while Landen was awaiting aid. Traces of cleaned blood residue were found in the family vehicle and in multiple rooms of the house, including sinks in the bathrooms and kitchen, police said.
“The delay in care was significant here, and that’s what ultimately led to the charge of first-degree murder,” said Phoenix police spokesman Sgt. Vince Lewis at a news conference March 22.
Both parents have been held in a Maricopa County jail since the shooting. Their three other children, the surviving boys and an infant daughter, were taken into the custody of the Arizona Department of Child Safety and were placed in foster care.
The family had been on DCS’ radar since Wendy Lavarnia gave birth to two substance-exposed newborns in 2014 and 2015. The children initially were taken from the home but the couple regained physical custody of them in November 2015.
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