JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A tragedy in Arlington: The father of a 14-year-old girl shot and killed wants answers, more than two months after her death.
Ayva Guthrie was a freshman at Sandalwood High School and a rising star on the basketball team. She had just become a big sister three weeks before her death. Ayva was small, but her personality was large.
“She was playing basketball, so we’re pushing for an academic and athletic scholarship, which would be great for her, for her future,” Aaron Begier, her father, told News4Jax. “I wanted everything for her. I wanted her to get married, have kids, have a good job.”
Begier said things were going well. Little did he know his world would soon be turned upside down.
“She passed away on my birthday,” he recounted with tears in his eyes. “Worst birthday ever.”
“She’s sitting in a vase on a mantle,” said an emotional Tom Begier, her paternal grandfather. “That’s not our Ayva. That’s not a little girl I rode bikes with.”
The shooting happened Jan. 19 at her mother’s home on Wedgefield Boulevard in Arlington. According to Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office detectives, Ayva got her hands on her mother’s gun. Evidence shows the magazine was out of it, but there was a bullet in the chamber. Investigators said they believe her mother, 34-year-old Amanda Guthrie, then took the gun, held it up and it went off.
“There’s no words at all to explain losing a child because of someone else’s actions,” Aaron Begier said. “She wasn’t sick, she was perfectly healthy. She wasn’t into trouble, she wasn’t hanging out with the wrong crowd, none of that stuff.”
Ayva was on life support for a day, but on Jan. 20, she passed away.
“Ayva did not deserve this and Ayva should be here right now, bottom line,” Tom Begier said.
Police arrested Amanda Guthrie after the shooting. She’s charged with aggravated manslaughter of a child and armed marijuana possession. In an interview, she told detectives she was “surprised” the gun went off and it was an accident.
“Anyone who has a gun knows you don’t accidentally pull the trigger pointed out another human,” Aaron Begier said. “You just don’t. That’s just not an accident.”
Amanda Guthrie has bonded out of jail and is on home detention but allowed to go to work, church and her lawyer’s office. News4Jax wanted to get her side of the story and found her at her home -- the same place where Ayva was shot. Amanda Guthrie was sitting outside in the carport and said she didn’t want to comment.
However, her attorney, Richard Landes, is speaking for her.
“The reason that I said this was a tragic accident was that the gun that was there did not have a magazine in it and Amanda Guthrie believed that this gun was not loaded,” he said. “She was handling a gun with her daughter that she believed to be unloaded.”
Landes said the bond, set at $200,000, is fair and his client is cooperating as she copes with loss and guilt.
News4Jax asked Landes: Was Guthrie negligent?
“That will be for the jury to decide,” he responded. “I’m not gonna make a statement like that prior to trial. I understand that people grieve in various ways. Nobody is grieving worse about this than Amanda Guthrie, nobody feels worse about this situation than she does. She has a wife, she has a family, they all feel terrible about this. But to start to make claims that somehow this wasn’t an accident or there should be no bond in this case or Amanda Guthrie shouldn’t be able to come to see his lawyer at his office or should be able to go to church, these are all just incorrect statements and incorrect assumptions.”
The Begiers said they want prison time and a guilty plea.
“She’s getting too much freedom for what she has done,” Aaron Begier said.
“I’m not staying out of it anymore,” said Tom Begier. “I want the state to know, what the judge to know, I want to defense to know that I’m fighting so that Amanda goes away forever. This shouldn’t happen to us and to our family. What about Ayva? This is all I have to say, Amanda, plead guilty and do your time. You did this and tell us the truth.”
Amanda Guthrie has pleaded not guilty to all five charges she’s facing and is due back in court in May.
Amanda Guthrie’s wife was not home at the time, Landes said. She has not been charged.
Judge Adrian Soud is overseeing the case. While it’s ongoing, he noted that there was no evidence that Ayva’s death was intentional.
RESOURCE: Firearm safety tips
Section 790.174, Florida Statutes, requires a loaded firearm in the home to be stored in a locked box container or secured with a trigger lock if the owner reasonably knows that a child under the age of 16 can gain access to the firearm. A violation of this law is a misdemeanor.