the weapon used to shoot a 13-year-old was left unattended over a refrigerator

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) – Topeka Police Department believe a small child in DaMya Hudnall’s home picked up an unattended gun from the top of a refrigerator and shot him.

The Topeka Police Department said in an affidavit received from the Shawnee Co. District Court that on June 12, just before 11:30 a.m., officers responded to a house in Topeka with reports of a shooting. Upon arrival, police found a victim in the front lounge with a gunshot wound to the head.

In the affidavit, the victim’s name was redacted. However, 13 NEWS learned that the victim was 13-year-old DaMya Hudnall.

According to the affidavit, Hudnall was taken to Stormont Vail Hospital and placed on life support following her injuries. He said Hudnall’s injuries were catastrophic and his chances of survival appeared low. Ultimately, he said a decision was made to remove Hudnall from life-saving assistance, when she died from the gunshot wounds she sustained.

The TPD said Robert Williams, Hudnall’s stepfather, was interviewed at the Law Enforcement Center while his mother, Tara Williams, was interviewed at Stormont Vail. He said the two said they were sleeping in their bedroom when they woke up screaming.

According to Tara Williams, Dejuan Yelverton was the one who woke them up screaming about DaMya. Robert Williams said he couldn’t remember who woke them up. The couple came out of their bedroom to find their daughter shot dead and lying on the floor.

The affidavit states that Robert Williams took two young children out of the house and into a grandparent’s house. He said the children were removed from the house before officers arrived.

The detectives tried to find the children for a welfare check and to conduct a SafeTalk. He said the children were not found with the grandparents who did not know who had picked them up. Additionally, he said Robert wouldn’t say where the kids might be or who found them. However, he assured officers before his release that he would bring the children for an interview.

Robert Williams has repeatedly refused to provide information about the children and has not brought them in for an interview.

According to the affidavit, a third child was seen at the residence by officers upon their arrival, but he was allowed to leave with a member of his family. While the child was later seen in hospital, he said the child was taken to his mother’s home. The name and place of residence of the mother were not communicated to the police.

The affidavit indicated that a child had been brought to LEC for questioning and had spoken to detectives. The child said he was sleeping in the basement at the time of the shooting and did not hear the gunshot but was awakened by screams and commotion coming from upstairs . The child also said Yelverton came to the top of the stairs and repeatedly told him to stay down. In addition, the child said that another child ran downstairs crying at the time.

The TPD said Yelverton was also taken to the LEC for questioning. In a post-Miranda statement, he said Yelverton provided the following details:

On Thursday June 10, Yelverton arrived at Hudnall’s house. He had come there to stay with his girlfriend because he had been asked to leave his apartment.

Yelverton was in possession of a black Ruger 57 semi-automatic firearm when he arrived home and brought it inside.

On Friday, June 11, Yelverton placed the gun on a waist-high freezer in the kitchen. He pulled away from the gun and returned later to find it still sitting on the deep frost. He had realized that he had been careless in leaving the gun there as several children live in the house and like to play with guns. He then put the gun on top of the refrigerator. He is convinced the gun was still there when he went to bed around midnight. He thought about picking up the gun before falling asleep, but decided to leave it there because he thought everything would be fine. He said kids like to climb on things, but he thought the gun would be safe.

Yelverton had placed the gun in the middle of the refrigerator with the handle hanging over the edge. He said everyone knew the gun was up there.

Yelverton confirmed that the refrigerator is where they keep food and sometimes tools. In particular, the cereals that children eat.

Yelverton was downstairs on June 12 when he heard a gunshot coming from upstairs. Before the gunshot he was upstairs talking to a friend of Robert’s who had stopped by for a brief visit. Before going back downstairs, he said the only person in the front living room was Hudnall and that she was in a recliner in the middle of the room playing a video game.

When he heard the shot, Yelverton said he ran upstairs to see what was going on when he found Hudnall slumped in a chair in the living room with blood dripping from her head. He said he also saw his gun resting near his feet on the ground. He confirmed that he also saw another child in the room at the time.

Then Yelverton said he woke up the Williams and checked Hudnall.

Yelverton said he grabbed the gun and threw it under the living room sofa. He said he then retrieved the gun and grabbed a pair of shorts from a room, wrapped the gun and placed it in a box on the car in the garage. He said he had seen TV shows where people and police packed guns in something to prevent their fingerprints from getting there.

Later in the interview, Yelverton said he was unsure how one of the children could have retrieved the gun from the top of the refrigerator. He also said two children liked to play with guns and one in particular liked guns and picked up real guns in the house before the incident. He said the child also almost shot a gun inside the house on one occasion.

Yelverton said he often let others hold and watch his gun. He said he thought it was possible that a friend of a child saw the gun the night before and took it out of the refrigerator. He is not sure if any of the child’s friends came to the house that night, but said it could be a theory as to how the gun may not have been above the fridge. .

Yelverton said he put the gun down and “hadn’t given it much thought.”

“I get careless sometimes,” Yelverton said.

Yelverton has admitted to being a convicted felon who is not allowed to have guns.

According to the affidavit, a search warrant for the house was executed in connection with the shooting. During the search, officers found the Ruger wrapped in gray shorts where Yelverton said he would be. He said the gun appeared to have blood on it and a single shell casing was found in a dog pen in the front lounge, which sits diagonally to where Hudnall was in the reclining chair.

On June 14, the TPD said two children were found in a house around 9 a.m. after detectives were told of their fate. He said the children were found at the home of a friend of Tara Williams. It was found that Robert had taken the children home around midnight on Monday and their location before that could not be confirmed. It should be noted that detectives were unable to obtain any information about the children of either Williams despite knowing the children were to be questioned.

The affidavit states that the children were taken to the Life House Child Advocacy Center where they were interviewed. During the interview with a child, he repeatedly said a phrase that sounded like “he killed”. He said the child had also clearly stated that another child had “killed” and that “the fire did”. The child also said he saw another child was there and witnessed the crash.

The other child brought to the center on June 14 for an interview said Hudnall was shot and was in a room playing with the puppy.

On June 14, the affidavit indicates that detectives spoke to another person at LEC. This person said he was on a Facebook FaceTime call with DaMya before the shooting. The person confirmed that DaMya was sitting in the recliner playing a video game while he was talking to her. He said he didn’t see the shooting because DaMya put the phone down and all he could see was the TV and the ceiling. He didn’t see anyone else in the room.

During a conversation with Tara Williams’ friend when officers found the missing children, she informed detectives that she was a friend of Tara and that she knew her home and her children well. She said kids are constantly climbing on things, including items in the kitchen, and often kids place a chair next to the refrigerator so they can get cereal from the top.

The affidavit indicates that officers took action on each of the children involved. The next day, he said officers returned home to take measurements of the kitchen appliances and the recliner. Based on the measurements, detectives believe the gun was used to shoot DaMya and was brought into the house by Yelverton.

Detectives believe one of the young children in the house used a chair to reach the top of the refrigerator where the gun was taken while the children were not being supervised. The measurements also show that it is possible that one of the three children in the house was able to retrieve the weapon from the top of the refrigerator.

According to the affidavit, Yelverton had previously been convicted of Shawnee Co. for a felony after pleading guilty to theft of a firearm valued at less than $ 25,000 in January 2020.

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