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Mother of 6-year-old school shooter pleads guilty to gun and marijuana charges

June 13, 2023
Deja Nicole Taylor is the mother of the first-grader who shot his teacher in January in the classroom of a Newport News, Va., elementary school.

The mother of the 6-year-old boy who shot his teacher at a Virginia elementary school has pleaded guilty to federal gun and marijuana charges.

The Virginian-Pilot reports that Deja Nicole Taylor, whose son shot 25-year-old Abby Zwerner on Jan. 6 in her first-grade classroom at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News on Jan. 6, has pleaded guilty to a felony charge of having a firearm while also possessing marijuana.

Taylor, 25, also pleaded guilty to a felony charge of lying on a federal background check form when she bought the gun, saying she wasn't a marijuana user.

Prosecutors have agreed to ask for a sentence of no more than two years in prison.

Zwerner was shot in the hand and chest as she sat at a reading table. She spent nearly two weeks in the hospital recovering from her wounds. The teacher has sued the district, contending that administrators knew the student had a history of random violence but didn’t take action despite warnings on the day of the shooting that the boy had a gun.

After the shooting, the school’s assistant principal resigned, and the principal was reassigned to another school. The school board voted to oust Superintendent George Parker III.

During Taylor's plea hearing, prosecutors presented evidence that Taylor was a heavy marijuana user and didn't admit that when she bought the handgun six months before the school shooting.

Investigators determined that Taylor bought the gun on July 19, 2022, prosecutors said in a news release. After the shooting, federal agents executed a court-ordered search of Taylor’s home, during which agents discovered narcotics packaging, narcotics paraphernalia, marijuana, marijuana edible packaging, a box of ammunition, and a black firearm barrel lock.

Taylor had told authorities that she kept the gun secured by a trigger lock, a mechanism that prevents the weapon from being fired. She also asserted the handgun was stored on the top shelf of a bedroom closet, out of the child's reach.

But investigators were unable to find a lockbox in Taylor's bedrooms at either her mother or grandfather's house. Nor was a trigger lock or key to a trigger lock ever found.

After Taylor pleaded guilty, U.S. Magistrate Judge Douglas Miller said she would remain free until sentencing, which is set for October.

Taylor also faces charges in state court: felony child neglect count and a misdemeanor count of "allowing access to firearms by children."

About the Author

Mike Kennedy | Senior Editor

Mike Kennedy, senior editor, has written for AS&U on a wide range of educational issues since 1999.

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