Child neglect sentencing delayed for mother of 6-year-old who shot teacher

Oct 26, 2023, 9:23 PM

FILE - Deja Taylor arrives at federal court, June 12, 2023, in Virginia Beach, Va. Taylor, the moth...

FILE - Deja Taylor arrives at federal court, June 12, 2023, in Virginia Beach, Va. Taylor, the mother of a 6-year-old who shot his teacher in Virginia, is expected to be sentenced Friday, Oct. 27, for felony child neglect, 10 months after her son used her handgun to critically wound the educator. (Stephen M. Katz/The Virginian-Pilot via AP, File)

(Stephen M. Katz/The Virginian-Pilot via AP, File)

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (AP) — A sentencing hearing for the mother of a 6-year-old who shot his teacher in Virginia has been delayed until December.

Deja Taylor faces up to five years in prison after pleading guilty to felony child neglect, though prosecutors will recommend only a six-month sentence as part of a plea deal.

A sentencing hearing for Taylor had been scheduled for Friday in Newport News Circuit Court, but on Thursday a judge delayed the hearing to December 15. Court records indicate the delay comes at the request of both the defense and prosecutors, in part because a report from the guardian ad litem was not yet available.

In Virginia, a guardian ad litem is appointed to represent the interests of the child in cases alleging neglect.

Elementary school teacher Abby Zwerner was shot in her classroom in January by Taylor’s 6-year-old son, reviving a national dialogue about gun violence and roiling the military shipbuilding city of Newport News.

The bullet fired from Taylor’s gun struck Zwerner, a first-grade teacher, in the hand and chest. She spent nearly two weeks in the hospital and has endured multiple surgeries.

Taylor told police she believed her 9mm handgun was secured at home with a trigger lock. But authorities said they never found a lock during searches of the home.

Taylor’s son told authorities he climbed onto a drawer to reach the top of a dresser, where the weapon was in her purse. He concealed the gun in his backpack and then his pocket before shooting his teacher in front of the class, prosecutors said.

Zwerner rushed her other students into the hallway before collapsing in the school’s office.

Moments later the 6-year-old told a reading specialist who restrained him, “I shot that (expletive) dead” and “I got my mom’s gun last night,” according to search warrants.

Taylor was charged in April. As part of the plea deal, prosecutors agreed to drop a misdemeanor count of recklessly storing a firearm.

Taylor’s attorney, James Ellenson, said there were “ mitigating circumstances ” surrounding the incident, including her miscarriages and postpartum depression.

The child neglect case against Taylor is one of three legal efforts to emerge from January’s shooting.

Taylor pleaded guilty separately to using marijuana while owning a gun, which is illegal under U.S. law, and will be sentenced in federal court next month. A plea deal in that case calls for 18 to 24 months imprisonment.

Meanwhile, Zwerner is suing Newport News Public Schools for $40 million, alleging gross negligence. The former teacher says administrators ignored multiple warnings the boy had a gun that day and had routinely dismissed ongoing concerns about his troubling behavior.

The school board is trying to block the lawsuit, arguing Zwerner’s injuries fall under Virginia’s workers compensation. The law provides up to 9 years or more in pay and lifetime medical care for injuries.

Lawyers for Zwerner and the school board are expected to argue Friday morning before a Newport News civil court judge about whether the lawsuit should proceed. Legal experts say Zwerner faces an uphill battle under Virginia’s uncommonly strict workers compensation law.

National News

FILE - Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., leaves the Capitol after being expelled from the House of Repres...

Associated Press

Judge turns down ex-Rep. George Santos’ request to nix some charges ahead of fraud trial

NEW YORK (AP) — Former U.S. Rep. George Santos on Friday lost a bid to get rid of part of the criminal case against him as he heads toward trial on charges that include defrauding campaign donors. U.S. District Joanna Seybert turned down Santos’ request to dismiss charges of aggravated identity theft and theft of […]

18 minutes ago

Associated Press

A judge adds 11 years to the sentence for a man in a Chicago bomb plot

CHICAGO (AP) — A man convicted of plotting to blow up a Chicago bar will have to spend another 11 years in prison. U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly resentenced Adel Daoud to 27 years in prison on Friday, the Chicago Tribune reported. U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman originally sentenced Daoud to 16 years in […]

50 minutes ago

FILE Opponents to an immigration proposal gather inside the Arizona State Capitol, Tuesday, June 4,...

Associated Press

Legal fight continues with appeals over proposed immigration initiative for Arizona Nov. 5 ballot

PHOENIX (AP) — The fight to keep a proposed border initiative off Arizona’s Nov. 5 ballot is not over yet. Immigrant advocates kept the issue alive this week by filing notice to the state Supreme Court that they will appeal the judge’s ruling. A Maricopa County Superior Court judge on July 12 rejected an effort […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

Lawsuit filed over Alabama law that blocks more people with felony convictions from voting

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A voting rights group says a new Alabama law that expanded the list of felonies that cause a person to lose their right to vote is “out of step” with what is happening in most of the nation on voting rights for formerly incarcerated people. The Campaign Legal Center filed the […]

2 hours ago

FILE - American Airlines planes wait at gates at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport Friday, J...

Associated Press

American Airlines has a contract deal with flight attendants, and President Biden is happy about it

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — American Airlines and the union representing its flight attendants said Friday they have reached agreement on a new contract that includes pay raises, and President Joe Biden said the deal avoids a strike that would have hurt the U.S. economy and consumers. Terms of the proposal were not disclosed. The […]

2 hours ago

FILE - White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan speaks during the daily briefing at the ...

Associated Press

US says Iran moving forward on a key aspect of developing a nuclear bomb

ASPEN, Colo. (AP) — Iran is talking more about getting a nuclear bomb and has made strides in developing a key aspect of a weapon since about April, when Israel and its allies overpowered a barrage of Iranian airstrikes targeting Israel, two top Biden administration officials said Friday. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and national […]

2 hours ago

Child neglect sentencing delayed for mother of 6-year-old who shot teacher