Mother of boy who fatally shot friend with pellet gun pleads not guilty of child abuse

12/12/2012 12:00 AM

12/12/2012 8:14 AM

The mother of an El Dorado Hills youngster who fatally shot a 10-year-old playmate with a pellet gun last year has pleaded not guilty to a charge of felony child abuse and endangerment stemming from the death.

The El Dorado County District Attorney's Office filed a criminal complaint Nov. 27 against Carmel Nicole Cobabe, alleging that she was responsible for the circumstances that led to the death of neighbor Keegan Swinney. She was arraigned Tuesday in El Dorado Superior Court in Placerville.

Cobabe's attorney, Mike Wise, said the case is in the very early stages and he has not seen the investigative reports that led to the charges. But, he said, "in my view, this case is extraordinary, bordering on unique."

Although injuries involving pellet guns are common in California, deaths are not.

Keegan was accidentally killed by a single shot to his upper torso from a Remington Airmaster .177 pellet gun held by Cobabe's 10-year-old son as the youngsters played on Waterman Court, where their families lived.

Witnesses said Keegan went from the yard where he was shot and told his brother, who was working on a car in front of the Swinney home, that his friend had shot him. Keegan made it to the door of his home before collapsing.

His family performed first aid, and he was taken to Mercy Hospital in Folsom, where he died.

Wise said that Carmel Cobabe is married and the mother of three children. He said the pellet gun belonged to the family. It appears she was charged in the case because she was the parent at home that day, he said.

But Wise said Cobabe was not at home when the shooting occurred. She had left the children in her father's care while she went to enroll a younger child in preschool, he said.

Wise said the shooting was a horrible tragedy for both the Swinney and Cobabe families.

"She is a sweet and loving woman," Wise said, "and she's devastated by the passing of a kid that she knew and cared for."

Wise said further court proceedings and a settlement conference are scheduled for February.

"I hope that when we get all the facts before both sides, we can explain why the case should be dismissed," Wise said.

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