A New Jersey man rejected a plea deal and pleaded not guilty to child negligence charges Monday after his 4-year-old son fatally shot his 6-year-old playmate with a .22-caliber rifle he found in his Toms River home.
Anthony Senatore doesn’t believe his culpability in the April 8 shooting death of Brandon Holt warrants jail time, according to his lawyer Robert Ebberup.
“My client is deeply horrified over what took place and feels awful about it,” Ebberup said. “Brandon Holt was a wonderful, wonderful little boy. We just hope that he’s in heaven right now. We’re sure he is.”
Senatore, 33, was arraigned Monday on six counts of child endangerment. Under the plea agreement, Senatore would have served seven years in jail.
“We don’t feel that jail is something that is appropriate at this point,” Ebberup said. “This is a civil case. This does not belong in the criminal courtroom.”
In April, Senatore’s son grabbed a .22-caliber rifle from his parents’ room and fired on shot into Holt’s head. Both parents, Anthony and Melissa Senatore, were home at the time of the shooting.
Holt was taken to Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune, N.J., where he died the following day.
Authorities found four other shotguns with nearby ammunition accessible to Senatore’s three children.
Senatore is facing both criminal and civil charges. The Holt family is seeking more than $1 million in damages.
Holt’s family sued Senatore in May alleging that their son’s death was “a direct and proximate result of the negligence, recklessness, and/or carelessness of” Senatore and that “Brandon Holt suffered physical and emotional injuries, considerable pain, anguish and suffering, permanent injuries and conscious pain and suffering, ultimately causing decedent’s death.”
Senatore will appear in court Jan. 27 for a conference with the judge, Guns.com reported.