PHOENIX— Wendy Lavarnia (D.O.B. 06-30-1988) was sentenced today to 10.5 years in the Department of Corrections after pleading guilty to Manslaughter and Attempted Child Abuse for the death of her 9-year-old son who was shot in the head while playing video games inside the family home.
“The defendant's attempt to hide her own conduct while she allowed her son to suffer may be at the heart of this case, but no one may truly understand the damage she inflicted on an innocent toddler by placing the blame for Landen’s death in his hands instead of her own,” said Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel.
On March 20, 2017 police were called to a home where 9-year-old Landen Lavarnia had reportedly been shot by his 2-year-old brother. According to the defendant she was home with her four children when she decided to leave a loaded gun with no safety on the bed next to the young child. She told investigators she turned her attention away for a moment and the toddler was able to grab the gun, pull the trigger, and hold on to the weapon until the defendant took it from his hands. The defendant said her son was struck by the bullet fired from the toddler and she called 911 trying to save her son’s life.
A short time later the children’s father, Kansas Lavarnia, came to the home and officers noticed an injury on his arm similar to a bullet wound. He told investigators he was not at the home when the shooting happened. Investigators later found the car he was driving had evidence of blood and cleaning supplies inside.
This was in contrast to the lack of blood that was found inside the home where Landen had been shot. Investigators were able to find what appeared to be substantial cleanup effort inside the home, although any materials used had already been removed from the home. This type of clean up would have required a significant amount of time, too long to complete between the time 911 was called and first responders arrived. The evidence suggests both the defendant and her husband did not immediately seek medical attention for Landen, who died from his injuries a day later.
The other three children in the home were removed and all were found to have drugs in their systems. Kansas Lavarnia was also charged in this case but died prior to his trial.