Nearly three years after his 2-year-old son found a loaded handgun and accidentally killed himself, a Johnson City man will go on trial for his child’s death.
Christopher Mitchell, 29, is charged with felony murder, aggravated child endangerment or neglect, tampering with evidence and identity theft. He is scheduled to go to trial Monday in front of Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood.
It’s one of the last criminal jury trials Blackwood is likely to handle because Judge Lynn Brown, for whom Blackwood has been hearing cases, is due back on the bench in December. Brown had hip surgery and is ready to return to work after about three months off the bench.
The incident that left Mitchell’s son, Jacob Mitchell, dead from a single gunshot to the head happened Jan. 11, 2009, at the Value Place Hotel, 135 Pinnacle Drive, where Mitchell had been living.
Mitchell called 911 after his son shot himself, but when police arrived Mitchell was sitting outside the hotel in his truck with the engine running.
He told police the gun was in a cabinet that Jacob had previously been able to access by standing on a chair.
Mitchell was asleep when Jacob retrieved the gun from the cabinet and told police he woke up when he heard what sounded like the pop of a firecracker. Jacob was “rocking back and forth on a chair,” before he fell off, Mitchell told police.
Investigators charged Mitchell with identity theft and tampering with evidence because they say he removed the gun from the scene and gave a false name when he first talked to them. Police said the gun was found on top of an electrical box outside the hotel.
At the time of his son’s death, Mitchell was a convicted felon and wasn’t supposed to have possession of a firearm. He was charged and pleaded guilty in federal court of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and is serving a 15-year sentence.