Parents of 9-year-old shot in head by 2-year-old brother arrested; boy on life support

Wendy Lavarnia, Kansas Lavarnia

PHOENIX, Arizona — The parents of a nine-year-old boy who is on life support after being shot in the head by his two-year-old sibling at a Phoenix home on Monday, March 20th have been arrested.

Sgt. Vince Lews of the Phoenix Police Department said Wendy Lavarnia, 28, is facing four counts of child abuse “for endangering her children when she placed a gun within their reach, resulting in one child shooting another ….” Her husband, Kansas Lavarnia, 31, is facing one count of prohibited possessor for having the gun in the house.

Earlier reports from investigators were that the child had died, but Lewis said Tuesday morning, March 21st that the little boy “remains on life support and has not yet died.” He also said that the child “is not expected to survive.”

Officers were called to the home in the 3500 block of West Rosewood Avenue around 3 p.m. after reports of gunfire. That’s near 35th Avenue and Cactus Road.

Officers found a young boy with a gunshot wound to the head.

The boy’s mother and three other children were home at the time of the shooting.

Wendy Lavarnia told detectives that she had put the loaded gun on the bed — within reach of two of the children — and then turned around to get the holster. She said she heard a shot and turned back to see her two-year-old holding the gun and her nine-year-old, who had been standing nearby, shot in the head.

Kansas Lavarnia was not home at the time, but arrived later and was questioned by police about the gun. Officers arrested him and booked him on a weapons charge.

Based on Arizona Department of Corrections records, he spent time in prison on convictions of theft and possession of burglary tools from incidents in 2009. He was admitted on Nov. 24, 2009, and released a little more than five years ago in February 2012. As a convicted felon, Kansas Lavarnia is a “prohibited possessor” and thus is not allowed to own or carry a gun.

“I feel sorry, you know what I mean,” said Jason Burns, a neighbor. “It’s gun safety. You need to keep it locked up and you need to educate your kids that this is not a toy.”

It’s not clear if the other three Lavarnia children are staying with family or if they are in the care of the Arizona Department of Child Safety.