14-year-old girl shot in head dies; mother charged

Family says child on life support passed away Wednesday night

14-year-old girl shot in head remains in critical condition; mother charged
14-year-old girl shot in head remains in critical condition; mother charged

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A 14-year-old girl shot in the head Tuesday afternoon at a home in Arlington has died after spending more than 24 hours on life support. A family member said she passed away with her loved ones by her side.

Her 34-year-old mother is in jail on various charges connected to her death, including aggravated manslaughter.

The family is devastated and asking for prayers. A relative created an online fundraising account to help with medical and funeral expenses.

A relative, who asked not to be named, identified the victim as Ayva Guthrie, who was a straight-A student at Sandalwood High School, where she plays basketball. Ayva had been very excited about her half-sister’s recent birth. A neighbor described Ayva as a friendly, sweet girl.

Ayva was shot at a home on Wedgefield Boulevard in Arlington Tuesday evening. While officially the shooting has not been classified as accidental, sources said they believed the gun was not properly stored.

Investigators told News4Jax they believe the teen was holding the gun and handed it to her mother when it went off, firing a single shot. They noted the mother cooperated with investigators.

Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office responded to the Arlington home shortly after 5 p.m. Tuesday after receiving a 911 call about a child shot. Sgt. Steve Rudlaff said the teenage girl was transported to the hospital in critical condition.

At a hearing for the 34-year-old mother, Amanda Guthrie, in a Duval County courtroom Wednesday, the prosecutor mistakenly told the judge the child has died, but the family told News4Jax she remained on life support at that time. The State Attorney’s Office later told News4Jax that there was a miscommunication in court.

By Thursday morning, the family confirmed that Ayva had died.

Guthrie is charged with aggravated manslaughter on a minor by culpable negligence, child neglect, armed possession of more than 20 grams of marijuana and shooting into a dwelling. She was initially ordered held on a $95,000 bond, but that was revoked after her daughter died.

14-year-old girl shot in head remains in critical condition; mother charged
14-year-old girl shot in head remains in critical condition; mother charged

Gun and ammunition safety

“We would ask that all firearms be safely stored and kept out of access from children and those not familiar with their use,” the JSO public affairs office wrote when answering questions about the case. “We would remind citizens to treat all firearms as if they were loaded, never pointing them at others and never playing with them. And remember that, negligence with firearm storage has the potential to have deadly consequences for a child and criminal charges for adults in the home.”

News4Jax crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson, a retired JSO officer, has seen this happen too many times. He said adults have a responsibility -- a legal one at that -- to keep their firearms secured and away from children.

“If a gun is loaded, it has the potential to accidentally discharge and go off and do harm,” Jefferson said. “If they’re minors, they see a gun, they want to hold it. They know how to pull the trigger. A lot of times they don’t mean any harm with it. The No. 1 safety rule and handling a weapon is (to) always consider it loaded, whether it is or not.”

SafeKids.org has several firearm safety tips:

  • Store guns unloaded and secured with effective, child-resistant gun locks in a locked container out of the reach and sight of children.
  • Store ammunition in a separate locked container out of the reach and sight of children.
  • Leaving guns unsecured – on a nightstand, table or another place where a child can gain access – can lead to injuries and fatalities.
  • Use combination locks and safes, or safes that use fingerprint recognition locks. Keep the combinations carefully hidden.
  • When a gun is not being stored, keep it in your immediate possession and control at all times. Otherwise, store the gun unloaded, locked and separate from ammunition.
  • If you carry a gun in your car, make sure to outfit your vehicle with a lockable container so you can securely store the gun when you exit the vehicle.
  • If a visitor has a gun in a backpack, briefcase, handbag or an unlocked car, provide them with a place to store it securely (locked, unloaded, and separate from ammunition) while they are in your home.
  • If a family member or loved one is in crisis and may be a risk to themselves or others, consider temporarily removing firearms from your home. Such crises can involve people who are depressed, suicidal, or abusing drugs or alcohol.
  • Talk to your children and their caregivers. Explain to children how a gun they see on television or a video game is different from a gun in real life. “A gun, in real life, can really hurt people.”
  • Teach kids that if they see or find a gun to immediately tell an adult about it. Urge them not to touch it.
  • Talking to children about gun safety is important, but it is not a substitute for storing guns securely.
  • Talk to the grandparents and parents of your children’s friends about guns in the home and how to safely store and secure them.
  • If you decide that you no longer need a gun in your home, dispose of it in a safe way. Consult with local law enforcement on the best way to do so.
  • Apply similar care to non-powder and air-soft guns including BB guns, paintball guns and pellet guns. Used improperly, these other kinds of “guns” can cause serious injuries, particularly to the head, neck, abdomen or eyes.

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