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Boy, 11, charged with killing 8-year-old girl after argument about puppies

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An argument between two children over puppies turned tragic Saturday when an 11-year-old boy allegedly killed his 8-year-old neighbor with a shotgun, according to authorities in Jefferson County, Tenn.

The 11-year-old has been charged with first-degree murder in the girl’s death, Jefferson County Sheriff Bud McCoig told The Washington Post. Authorities aren’t releasing the names of either child, but Latasha Dyer told ABC affiliate WATE that her daughter, MaKayla, was killed.

“She was a precious little girl,” Dyer said through tears in an on-air interview with WATE. “She was a mommy’s girl. No matter how bad of a mood you were in, she could always make you smile.”

Each of the children had a puppy, the sheriff said. The 11-year-old “wanted to see the 8-year-old’s, and she said no, and then he went and retrieved a gun,” McCoig said.

The boy fired the 12-gauge shotgun from inside his house, striking the girl as she stood in her yard, the sheriff said. The gun, which was stored in a closet without locks, belongs to the boy’s father, McCoig said.

When first responders and police arrived at the scene Saturday night, they found the girl “lying on the ground with a gunshot to the chest,” McCoig said. She was taken to an area hospital, where she died from her wounds.

[Young people are far more likely to die by guns than in cars]

On Monday, a judge ordered the boy to be held in a juvenile facility pending his next court hearing Oct. 28; the case could later be transferred to adult court, McCoig said.

MaKayla will be interred Thursday at the Haun Cemetery in Luttrell, Tenn. Her family will be receiving guests at 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Cooke-Campbell Mortuary in Maynardville, and her funeral will be held at 7 p.m.

The family has requested that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made toward funeral expenses.

“Our precious daughter went to her Heavenly home Saturday, October 3, 2015,” reads her obituary.  MaKayla leaves behind a brother, three sisters, her parents, numerous grandparents and great-grandparents.

Saturday’s killing, which came just two days after a mass school shooting in rural Oregon, has rocked the small community of White Pine, Tenn. Both children attended White Pine School, which teaches students from kindergarten through eighth grade, Principal Bill Walker said.

“We remember her smile and her beautiful face,” Walker told reporters Monday. “Our normal has changed.”

[Where in America do gun owners live?]

Chasity Arwood, manager of the White Pine mobile home park, where the shooting took place, told the Knoxville News Sentinel that MaKayla and another girl were by the boy’s window and the trio were “laughing and giggling.”

“He asked the little girl to see her puppies,” Arwood told WBIR. “She said no and laughed and then turned around, looked at her friend and said, ‘Let’s go get the –‘ and never got ‘puppies’ out.”

Arwood told the Sentinel that the boy threw the shotgun out of the window after firing it.

Dyer said she had previously approached the school principal about the 11-year-old bullying her daughter, Knoxville’s WATE TV reported.

“When we first moved to White Pine, the little boy was bullying MaKayla. He was making fun of her, calling her names, just being mean to her,” Dyer said Sunday. “I had to go to the principal about him, and then he quit for a while. And then all of a sudden yesterday, he shot her.”

Walker declined to confirm to reporters Monday that Dyer talked to him about bullying, citing the ongoing investigation.

[How often do children in the U.S. unintentionally shoot and kill people? We don’t know.]

Counselors were at the school to support students and staff in the aftermath of the shooting.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with those involved from both families,” Walker said, according to WATE. “It’s not just the school that’s hurting; it’s the whole community.”

McCoig said the killing has taken a toll on his investigators. “We only get through it by the grace of God,” he said.

[This article, originally published Oct. 5, has been updated.]


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