Philadelphia News & Search
A North Philadelphia mother whose 2-year-old son was shot and wounded in their home on Thanksgiving Day pleaded guilty in court Monday to a felony charge of endangering the welfare of a child.
Rachel Santiago, 34, was sentenced as part of a plea deal to six to 12 months in jail followed by six years of probation. She was also ordered by Common Pleas Court Judge Robert Coleman to stay away from her son during the probationary period, Assistant District Attorney Branwen McNabb said Tuesday.
The toddler was accidentally shot in the chest by his 4-year-old cousin who had found a loaded handgun in a dresser drawer of the 2-year-old’s parents’ bedroom. The bullet tore through his little finger, then entered his body.
“He is miraculously doing well,” McNabb said of the child, who had spent several weeks in a hospital.
The toddler’s father, Omar Laboy-Vega, now 35, was charged with endangering the welfare of a child and illegal possession of a weapon as a former convict.
Laboy-Vega, who still faces trial in the case, had a prior robbery conviction in New York state and was on parole, McNabb said.
Besides the one loaded gun that the 4-year-old found, there was also a loaded gun under a mattress on the floor of the parents’ bedroom, McNabb said.
One of the parents called 911 after the shooting about 4:20 p.m. Nov. 24. After officers arrived to the house on the 3500 block of North Ninth Street, they had to knock numerous times before Santiago answered, McNabb said. “Asked if someone was shot, the first thing she replied was, ‘It was my gun and it [the gun] was legal,’ ” McNabb said.
Santiago, who did not have a prior criminal history, admitted to buying the guns, McNabb said. She was not allowed to have the guns in her house given that Laboy-Vega also lived there, the prosecutor said.
Police rushed the 2-year-old boy to Temple University Hospital, where he was stabilized and then transferred to St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children. McNabb called the officers’ actions “heroic,” praising them for saving the child’s life.
She said Santiago initially told detectives that Laboy-Vega wasn’t home at the time of the shooting, when he was, and tried to convince them that her 4-year-old nephew was able to get a key to open a drawer where Santiago contended the gun was safely kept, when that wasn’t the case, McNabb said.
Lauren Baraldi, Santiago’s defense attorney, said Tuesday her client took responsibility in the case as soon as she could, admitting her guilt. “It was an absolutely horrific event. As a mother, it’s not something … she will get over,” the attorney said.
Santiago “conceded they were her guns and they were not secure,” Baraldi said. The attorney said her client denies that she was uncooperative with investigators.
Philadelphia News & Search