Columbia County Juvenile Court Judge Doug Flanagan granted a bond Friday for a 14-year-old boy charged in the accidental shooting death of a 13-year-old girl.
On Halloween night, the teen, whose name is not being released because of his age, accidentally shot and killed Kristen Burnette. He was charged with involuntary manslaughter.
Judge Flanagan granted the teen, who is being held in the Regional Youth Detention Center, a $10,000 bond at a detention hearing Friday morning.
“It looks like it was an accident,” Flanagan said after hearing authorities testify about the incident.
Kristen, a Grovetown Middle School eighth-grader, and three friends were “hanging out” at her house. No adults were home. The victim’s mother, Miriam Lunsford, was not home and her step-father, Steven Lunsford Jr., is an Army soldier deployed to Afghanistan.
The teen went looking through the house and found a 12-gauge shotgun loaded with buckshot in the master bedroom.
“She was sitting in a chair in the dining room at her laptop,” Columbia County Coroner Vernon Collins said. “She was struck in the head by the projectiles from the shotgun.”
The teen “accidentally discharged” the gun in the den and hit Kristen in the dining room 22-25 feet away, Grovetown Department of Public Safety Capt. Donovan Jones said.
“This is the third teenage death we’ve had in three years,” Flanagan said. “In each incident there was a gun in the home and no parents were at home. The guns were not secured or locked up.”
Eleanor “Ellè” Kelly, 13, of Harlem, was accidentally shot in the face March 29 by Zach Provance, then 14. Provance was showing off his father’s gun at his Keener Street home when it went off.
No adult was home at the time and the gun was not locked.
Kelly died the next day and Provance was charged with involuntary manslaughter.
Aaron Schmidt, of Harlem, was sentenced to life in prison in March after being found guilty of murder for the Jan. 31, 2011, shooting death of Alana May Calahan, 14. Schmidt, then also 14, used Alana’s father’s gun to shoot her in her dining room and then dragged her body to woods behind her home.
Grief counselors were at the school Thursday and Friday to help Kristen’s classmates cope with her death.
Kristen was well-liked and friendly, Grovetown Middle Principal Tom Smallwood said.
“I haven’t heard anyone say one word that was unkind about her,” he said. “She was super popular with a lot of kids.”
A free-spirit who liked to skateboard with friends, Kristen also was funny and loved rainbows, the principal said.
Pupils are planning to pin rainbows to their clothing as a tribute to the eighth-grader. Classmates also were making banners with hand-written messages for Kristen to hang in the school.
“You could just tell from the reaction, she touched a lot of kids,” he said.