15-year-old pleads in accidental shooting death

15-year-old pleads in accidental shooting death

URBANA — A Champaign County judge will decide later what sentence an Urbana teen will receive for accidentally killing his toddler nephew last spring.

The now 15-year-old youth pleaded guilty Thursday in juvenile court before Judge Heidi Ladd to involuntary manslaughter, admitting that he acted recklessly when he fired the handgun that killed Mekhi Woods, 3, on May 16.

Dequan Fenderson, 18, of Champaign, pleaded guilty in November to unlawful possession of a weapon for supplying the teen with the gun. Fenderson is scheduled to be sentenced Friday and faces a maximum sentence of three years in prison.

The charges against both teens stemmed from an incident at the younger teen's home in the 900 block of East Pennsylvania Avenue in Urbana. The News-Gazette does not normally identify those charged with crimes in juvenile court.

Assistant State's Attorney Chris Kanis said the two were in a room where the toddler was also present.

The 15-year-old told police that he thought the gun was safe because Fenderson had taken the clip out of it; he was unaware of a live round still in the chamber when he fired the gun in the direction of the boy.

Fenderson ran from the home as the other teen scooped up his nephew and ran from the house with the boy in his arms, bleeding from an open wound on the side of his forehead.

He handed the boy off to a young neighbor girl, who was carrying the child in her arms and crying hysterically when police arrived. The teen was holding a handgun to his chest, saying "I just shot my nephew," and threatening to kill himself. Police had to talk him into putting the gun down and surrendering, which he eventually did.

The teen, whose mother was in court with him Thursday, covered his face with his hands as Kanis recited details of the shooting for the judge.

Kanis agreed to dismiss an additional count of unlawful possession of weapons against the youth in that case as well as a separate case of burglary alleging a shoplifting at a local grocery store.

Ladd ordered that a home and background study be done to assist her in sentencing the teen. Since the shooting, he served several weeks in detention as well as received treatment at inpatient substance abuse programs. He is now living with his mother.

Ladd set his sentencing for March 6. He faces penalties ranging from probation to a maximum of being held in juvenile prison until his 21st birthday.