Parents of child shot face murder charges; investigators believe they delayed care, cleaned scene

Posted at 10:28 AM, Mar 22, 2017

Officials believe parents of a 9-year-old boy shot in the head deliberately delayed medical treatment to the child and are now facing first-degree murder charges. 

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Wendy Lavarnia told police her 2-year-old son picked up her loaded handgun and shot his older brother in the head. She told investigators she previously allowed the toddler to practice pulling the trigger of the gun when it was unloaded.

The child was taken to the hospital in extremely critical condition. Tuesday evening police said the child, identified as Landen Lavarnia, had died from his injuries.

Wendy was booked into jail on four counts of child abuse for endangering her children with the loaded gun. Kansas Lavarnia, the father, was booked into jail on one count of being a prohibited possessor of a gun in the home. 

According to official documents, first-responders got to the home and found the 9-year-old suffering from a single gunshot wound to the head. Firefighters at the scene alerted police of a “lack of blood from the wound”.

Wendy, the child’s mother, told investigators Kansas was not home at the time of the shooting and had been shopping. She said she immediately called 911 and performed CPR on the child, identified as Landen Lavarnia, until help arrived. 

When Kansas returned home hours later, investigators noticed a poorly bandaged wound to his arm, believed to be a gunshot wound that went completely through. He also had wounds around the gunshot wound that may have been caused by a screwdriver. Both injuries did not appear to be self-inflicted. 

A search warrant turned up items that were used to bandage the wound on Kansas’s arm and clean up blood. The evidence was found in the car Kansas was driving as well as in the home’s trash can.

Officials believe a “significant amount of time and effort was taken prior to contacting emergency services”. Because of the “deliberately delayed emergency care”, charges of first-degree murder were added to both Wendy and Kansas.

Kansas also received a charge of hindering prosecution because officials believe he helped remove bloody items and had cleaning supplies in his vehicle. 

The Arizona Department of Child Services says they investigated Wendy Rodriguez and Kansas Lavarnia twice for allegations that two other kids in the family were born with drugs in their systems.

Here are those two reports verbatim from DCS:

  • On June 10, 2014, a report was received alleging Wendy Rodriguez gave birth to a substance exposed newborn. The family participated in intensive in-home services, however, Landen Lavarnia and his siblings were later removed and the Department filed a dependency petition with the Maricopa County Juvenile Court in August 2014. The Department was providing services to the family when the subsequent report was received.
  • On November 25, 2015, a report was received alleging Wendy Rodriguez gave birth to a substance exposed newborn. The Department continued providing services to the family. The dependency was dismissed in March 2016 and the case was closed in June 2016 after the family successfully completed services. 

DCS says Landen’s siblings have been placed in foster homes since the shooting happened.

Landen was a student at Sahuaro Elementary School. The Washington Elementary School District released the following statement Wednesday: