The Phoenix mother sounded frantic as she explained how her 9-year-old son, Landen Lavarnia, was shot March 20, 2017, inside their home. But police say the 911 call was a farce.
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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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911 call made after 9-year-old was shot, killed
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
“My son, he is 9 years old. He is shot in the head … by his baby brother,” Wendy Lavarnia told the 911 dispatcher. “I got my gun down and I put it on the bed, like an idiot.”
The Phoenix mother sounded frantic as she explained to the dispatcher how her 9-year-old son, Landen Lavarnia, was shot March 20 inside their home. But police say the 911 call was a farce, that she waited to seek help while one or more people cleaned up the scene.
How much time lapsed between the shooting and the call remains unknown.
“‘Landen, come on, baby,'” Wendy Lavarnia said. “He is almost turning a little blue. His eyes are a little open. He’s not responding, though.”
She and the boy’s father, Kansas Lavarnia, are being held in county jails, both charged with several felonies, including first-degree murder.
The Phoenix Police Department released the 4 minute and 48 second audio recording on Wednesday, nearly a month after the boy’s death.
Wendy Lavarnia made the 911 call at about 3 p.m. March 20. Fire officials who arrived at the home on 35th and Rosewood avenues remarked about the lack of blood at the scene, according to police.
Landen had been shot once in the head. As Lavarnia tells it, her 2-year-old son shot Landen in the head after she placed a loaded 9mm handgun on the master bed, next to the toddler and a 4-year-old.
She said the 2-year-old, who previously was allowed to “practice” pulling the trigger of the gun when it was unloaded, picked up the weapon and fired it. Landen had been playing video games a few feet away, she told police.
The cries of children can be heard in the background as a dispatcher tried to get Lavarnia to speak clearly into the phone, the audio of which sounded garbled at times. A dispatcher instructed her to help control the bleeding by using a dry, clean cloth to apply pressure to the wound.
She described Landen as being unresponsive to the dispatcher who asked her to put her ear to the boy’s mouth to listen and feel for his breath. When Lavarnia said she didn’t think the boy was breathing, the dispatcher directed her to push both of her hands into the center of Landen’s chest as he lay on his back.
Emergency crews took Landen to a hospital in critical condition. He died the following day.
Lavarnia, 28, said her husband, 31, was out shopping at the time of the shooting. He returned to the home nearly three hours after authorities arrived with a wound on his arm that was wrapped in a crude makeshift bandage of tissue paper and clear packing tape. Police said it appeared as if he took a screwdriver to his arm to try to disguise a through-and-through gunshot wound.
Wendy Lavarnia was initially booked into jail on suspicion of four counts of child abuse in connection with endangering her children, according to police. Kansas Lavarnia also was taken into custody on suspicion of illegally possessing a weapon, which he was prohibited from having because of a prior felony conviction.
Police later announced there appeared to be a substantial amount of effort that went into cleaning up blood from inside the home prior to the arrival of emergency services.
Investigators discovered cleaned blood residue in multiple rooms of the house, including sinks in the bathroom and kitchen. Wipes or towels used to clean up the blood were not discovered, though additional traces of blood were discovered in the family vehicle along with two empty cans of stain remover, police said.
“What we’ve learned through this investigation is that significant efforts were made to scrub the house clean and remove evidence while this young boy lay shot and dying,” said Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams. “This investigation will continue until justice is ultimately brought about. But, until then, our hearts go out to the remaining family members, to the officers and firefighters and emergency personnel impacted by this, and to all of those folks who loved Landen.”
The Lavarnias were subsequently charged with first-degree murder in the death of their oldest son. They pleaded not guilty in the Maricopa County Superior Court and remain in the custody of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.
The other children who were inside the house at the time of the shooting — boys ages 4 and 2 and a baby girl — were taken into the custody of the Arizona Department of Child Safety following Landen’s death.
The family had prior experience with the agency after Wendy Lavarnia had given birth to two substance-exposed newborns in 2014 and 2015. The children were initially taken into state custody but returned after the couple had engaged in services to address domestic violence and substance-abuse issues.
The dependency case was closed in June 2016 after the Lavarnias successfully completed services through the department, the DCS said.
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