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No charges in Christmas Day shooting death of 3-year-old, D.A. says

The Christmas Day shooting death of 3-year-old Aylee Gordon was a "catastrophic accident" resulting from the improper storage of a loaded gun in a pickup truck, not the result of criminal negligence under the law, District  Attorney Andrew Murray announced on Tuesday.

Murray communicated the results of his investigation in a five-page letter to the SBI special agent in charge in the region, Chuck Vines, and Sheriff Lowell Griffin on Tuesday. Murray said Aylee's parents, Anya Gordon and Tim Gordon, a retired Henderson County sheriff's captain, were unaware that Tim Gordon's 28-year-old son, Sam, had stowed his loaded 9-mm Glock pistol in the front seat door storage slot of the pickup truck where Aylee was shot. Sam Gordon cannot be charged under North Carolina law because he did not reside in his father's Spicer Cove Road home and was not the parent or a person responsible for Aylee's care.

"There is no doubt that Samuel made a terrible decision when he stored a loaded gun in a place where a child could find it," Murray said. "However, no North Carolina criminal laws were violated as a result of his ill-fated decision."

Aylee was shot when she climbed into the front seat of the pickup truck and somehow retrieved the gun, which discharged, shooting her in the head. She was pronounced dead three days later at Mission Hospital.

Murray's investigation was based on voluntary interviews with all three Gordons, on forensic evidence and law officers' probe into the shooting. On Christmas Day, he said, the Gordons took Aylee and her 6-year-old brother Eli to Spicer Cove Road from their home off that road so Aylee could ride her new bicycle and Eli his hoverboard. When Aylee had an accident and urinated in her pants, the couple decided that Anya would take her home in the pickup truck to clean up and change. They put Aylee in the front passenger seat and the family dog in the back and "almost immediately ... heard the sound of a gunshot from the vehicle," then found that Aylee  had suffered "an apparent catastrophic gunshot wound to the head."

Because cell phone service was spotty, the Gordons drove toward a Edneyville Fire & Rescue. On the way, first responders intercepted them and began to treat Aylee. She was transported to Mission Hospital, where she survived emergency surgery but later died.

Driven by law officers to the hospital, the Gordons made multiple spontaneous statements that they were unaware that Sam had stowed his Glock in the pickup truck, Murray said. Investigators recovered the pistol with six live rounds and the holster and found blood on the floorboard and an exit hole through the pickup's windshield.

Murray said his investigation showed that Tim and Anya Gordon were "completely unaware that a loaded gun was stored" beside the front passenger seat and thus could not be held criminally liable. Sam Gordon, who lives in Georgia, could not be charged under state law.

"Even if criminal charges were possible based on these facts, I can conceive of no criminal punishment that could come close to the lifetime of anguish caused by losing a loved one as a result of one's own actions," Murray wrote, adding that the "expressed resolute desire of Tim and Anya Gordon not to charge Samuel Gordon would weigh heavily in fashioning a just result in this tragedy."