GUNSHOT DEATH: Mother of 3-year-old pleads guilty to criminally negligent homicide

Published: Aug. 26, 2016 at 12:56 PM AKDT
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An Anchorage mother pleaded guilty Friday to criminally negligent homicide just more than a year after the death of her 3-year-old son.

Elizabeth Morin's son, Brayden Heath, found a loaded gun in his mother's home and fatally shot himself in August of last year. The plea deal dropped an earlier charge of manslaughter.

Morin could face up to 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine.

Through Friday's brief hearing, Morin said only "Yes, sir" or "No, sir," to the judge's questions.

Prosecutors said that on August 5, 2015, Morin called 911 as she was driving her son to the hospital. She returned to her home on Olympic Terrace Cir. to meet with medics. Her son was declared dead with a gunshot wound to the forehead.

Prosecutors said neither she nor the two other adults in the residence at the time heard the .38 caliber handgun fire. The gun was reportedly in a gun case on a futon.

Morin is scheduled to be sentenced on January 6.

--- Kortnie Horazdovsky UPDATE Thursday, Feb. 4: Elizabeth Joelle Morin, 22, left a loaded firearm in the presence of her 3-year-old son "for days, not hours" recklessly causing his death, prosecutors said. Morin was arraigned today on felony charges of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide following the death of her son, Brayden Heath, on Aug. 5, 2015. The boy died of a gunshot wound in a home on the 4000 block of Olympic Terrace Circle. After the arraignment, Anchorage District Attorney Clint Campion told Channel 2 News that Morin owned the gun that killed the boy. He told Judge Paul Olson earlier that Morin left the loaded firearm out for an "unreasonably long period of time," he said. Morin sat next to her father at the defendant's table. She didn't speak at the hearing and declined to be interviewed as she left the courtroom. Richard Payne, a criminal defense attorney with Denali Law Group, spoke on Morin's behalf although he said he would not be representing her at trial. She qualifies for a public defender, Payne said. Campion asked the judge to impose an appearance and performance bond for Morin totaling $6,000, among other conditions. Payne objected to the bond request, saying Morin is a lifelong Alaskan with long ties to the community. "She's not a flight risk," he said. Olson declined Campion's request for $6,000 in bonds. He released Morin on the condition that she not possess firearms, that she remain in Alaska, and stay in touch with her lawyers. Morin's trial is set for the week of May 9. Two other people besides Morin were at the home when the child shot himself. They were occupants of the residence at the time. "They are people who have been cooperative with the investigation, and they have not been charged and we don't believe they have any culpability in this matter," Campion said. He noted that Morin has also been cooperative and is innocent until proven guilty. -- Paula Dobbyn ORIGINAL STORY: The mother of an Anchorage preschooler who accidentally shot and killed himself on Aug. 5, 2015, is facing charges of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide. A grand jury has charged Elizabeth Joelle Morin, 22, with recklessly causing the death of 3-year-old Brayden Heath, according to documents filed in court. Morin is scheduled to make her first court appearance on Thursday. Police said in August Brayden accidentally shot and killed himself in a home on the 4000 block of Olympic Terrace Circle. There were three people in the home at the time, according to police spokeswoman Anita Shell. Police reports of the death were unavailable Monday, according to Shell, but confirmed that Morin was the boy's mother. Several calls and emails to the district attorney's office about the case were not returned. A GoFundMe account set up two days after the preschooler died listed his parents as Elizabeth Morin and James Heath. The page described Brayden as Tlingit and a member of the Kaach.adi clan member. Copyright © 2016, KTUU-TV