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Sitter charged after 5-year-old fatally shoots self while she naps

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(CNN) -- A woman who was babysitting a 5-year-old who fatally shot himself Monday with her gun has been charged with abandoning or endangering a child, a felony, and jailed in Orange County, Texas, police said Wednesday.

Bail was set at $250,000 for Melissa Ann Ringhardt, 19, said Clint Hodgkinson, chief deputy with the Orange County Sheriff's Office.

The death was "avoidable," according to Hodgkinson, who said Ringhardt failed to secure the gun while she was caring for the boy, John Allen Read, and a 6-month-old, both children of Kayla and Joe Read.

Ringhardt was a regular babysitter for the family, with whom she had been living in Vidor, Texas, for the past few months, police said in a statement. Vidor is 95 miles east of Houston.

"Ringhardt stated to investigators that she was carrying a handgun on her person in the home that day because she was scared being at home alone," the statement said. "The handgun was a semi-automatic .40 caliber pistol. Ringhardt left the handgun on a coffee table in the living room and went to the bedroom to take a nap. When she was awakened from her nap, she noticed she didn't see John around the house. She began looking until she found him deceased in the living room with the fatal gunshot wound."

The infant was not hurt.

Hodgkinson said the elder child sustained a gunshot wound to the head and is believed to have died instantly.

With no phone at the house, Ringhardt carried the boy's body to his grandparent's house nearby, and police were called.

At the time of the shooting, the child's mother was at a hospital with another of her children, and the father was out of town on business. The father, Joe Read, said his neighborhood was not unsafe. He would not comment further.

"The preliminary investigation appears to be that the shooting was accidental," police said in a statement.

This is at least the fifth instance since June of a child dying from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

 

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