A New Jersey judge has determined the amount of money owed in a wrongful death suit filed by the parents of a slain 6-year-old boy.
In 2014, Anthony Senatore, of Toms River, New Jersey, pleaded guilty to two counts of child endangerment after reportedly leaving a loaded .22 caliber rifle under his bed. Senatore's 4-year-old so got hold of the gun and accidentally fired it, killing 6-year-old Brandon Holt who was visiting the Senatores' home for a play date, NJ.com reported.
According to MSN News, Judge Wendel E. Daniels of the Toms River Superior Court declared that Senatore was 90 percent responsible for the boy's death for having left a loaded gun in the house, and that his wife, Melissa Senatore, was 10 percent responsible for not being aware of the weapon's location.
Anthony allegedly carried other firearms in his home. According to NJ.com, authorities found a 12-gauge shotgun, two Harrington & Richardson shotguns, and a Remington 12-gauge shotgun all unsecured and located near ammunition in the Senatores' home, in addition to the loaded rifle under his bed.
At the time of Brandon's death in 2013, the Senatores' three children were 12, 8 and 4 years old.
The Ashbury Park Press reported that Anthony's attorney, Robert Ebberup, said Anthony had retrieved the loaded rifle from a gun locker several months before the tragedy, after hearing a noise in the middle of the night. According to Ebberup, Anthony then hid the rifle under his bed for the next several days in case an intruder arrived at his home. Anthony reportedly forgot about the rifle until months later, when his young son used it and accidentally killed Brandon.
Anthony was reportedly just 10 feet away from his son when the gun went off, MSN News notes. The kids were pretend-shooting each other when the incident occurred.
During his sentencing in 2015, Anthony said he is "not a monster," the Ashbury Park Press noted.
"Each and every one of us have hobbies and other recreational activities that we pursue," he explained in court, alluding to the fact that he purchased his guns for hunting purposes. "I am no different than any other person in that respect, but for one horrible mistake, one terrible lapse in judgment, which will define the remainder of my days."
Anthony added: “Brandon played with my own three children regularly and was a guest in my home on many occasions, including many times for dinner. We considered him part of our family. I cannot begin to fathom the loss of any of my children. Therefore, I cannot imagine the depth of pain and sorrow that Ron and Christine [Brandon's parents] experience on a daily basis.”
“I still deal with it every day, that I couldn’t protect him, I couldn’t save him,” Christine Holt, Brandon's mother, said in court at that time. “I would have done anything to be able to.”
At the sentencing, Anthony agreed to a plea bargain that called for him to serve three years in prison, instead of facing up to a maximum of 10 years. According to the Ashbury Park Press, the plea was reached in part because the Holts were concerned about Anthony's own children.
Anthony also had to give up his firearms and his firearms purchaser identification card, NJ.com reported.
On May 23, Judge Daniels awarded the Holts $572,588.26, plus an undetermined amount for punitive damages, in a wrongful death suit brought by the family against Anthony and Melissa, MSN News reports.
“To leave this rifle under the bed for five or six months, in this court’s mind, is an act of willful or wanton disregard of the rights of another,” the judge said, according to MSN News. “There were children in the house.”
When asked by a reporter after the ruling if she could ever forgive Anthony for what happened to her son, Christine responded, "I don't know if I can answer that."
"It's justice and it's also awareness," she added. "I just want everyone to know - just lock up your guns. Just lock up your guns."