Englewood Sun (FL) – Saturday, June 15, 2013
PUNTA GORDA — More than a dozen people, occupying about half the courtroom at the Charlotte County Justice Center, held one another close and wiped tears from their eyes Friday as they awaited the sentence of the father of a 2-year-old boy who shot and killed himself with an unsecured firearm in November.
Christopher C. Davis, 24, of Port Charlotte, scrubbed his own tears away as he pleaded no contest to culpable negligence, a third-degree felony, for leaving his Glock .40-caliber handgun unsecured in his closet.
His son, Christopher Eli Davis, grabbed it and accidentally shot himself.
Nearly everyone present in court teared up when 20th Circuit Judge Amy Hawthorne withheld adjudication and sentenced Davis to two years of probation and 50 hours of community service, with the stipulation that Davis would spend his time teaching others about child and gun safety.
Davis also must forfeit the firearm to the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office, pay court costs, and donate to a children’s advocacy group.
Withholding adjudication means there will be no finding of guilt in the case, provided Davis complies with all of the conditions of his sentence.
‘The public-speaking aspect is going to be hard for him,’ said Jessica Vets, Davis’ first cousin, who acted as a spokeswoman for the family. ‘It will mean that he has to relive that night over and over again, but if it saves even one child, then it is worth it.’
Davis and other family members declined to comment Friday.
At about 3 a.m. Nov. 18, 2012, the Sheriff’s Office responded to Davis’ then-home on the 21300 block of Hubbard Avenue in Port Charlotte. Deputies were responding to a medical call related to a small boy who was not breathing and reportedly had blood on him.
When the deputies arrived, the child’s mother, Lisset Elias, 23, was standing in the driveway with the child wrapped in a blanket, according to a sheriff’s report. The child, Christopher Eli, did not have a pulse, and was taken to Peace River Regional Medical Center in Port Charlotte, where he was pronounced dead. He was just shy of his 3rd birthday.
The elder Davis’ arrest came Jan. 24. He cooperated fully with authorities and had been released on his own recognizance after his booking, the Sun previously reported.
Russell Kirshy, Davis’ defense attorney, told the judge that Davis and his son shared a ‘special bond’ and were ‘inseparable.’
‘They looked alike, they acted alike, and they did everything together,’ he told the judge.
Kirshy said Davis relied on him to review all the evidence because he was too emotional to view it.
Hawthorne said she had received numerous letters from family and friends of Davis asking her to consider the plea deal, which did not include jail time for Davis. Attorneys for both sides agreed on the deal in May.
Kirshy said Davis was a devoted father and worked hard to be the primary provider for the family so Elias, now his fiancee, could stay home and care for their child.
‘Sometimes things of this nature can tear a couple apart,’ Vets said of the incident. ‘But since the tragedy, they have grown closer together.’
Hawthorne asked Elias, who is pregnant, if the sentence was what she wanted. Elias nodded yes from across the courtroom. Vets said the couple are expecting a baby girl in September.
Vets said the family was more than relieved when they heard Hawthorne’s ruling.
‘Chris will spend the rest of his life asking himself ‘what if,’ and that is a life sentence in itself,’ Vets said.