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Father Charged in Shooting Death of 2-Year-Old Son

September 28, 2016

Contact: Matthew Weintraub, 215.340.8159, mdweintraub@buckscounty.org

The father of a 2-year-old boy who shot himself to death while playing with a gun in Upper Bucks County was charged today with involuntary manslaughter, endangering the welfare of a child and recklessly endangering another person.

Nicholas Aaron Wyllie, 26, was arraigned before Magisterial District Judge Charles W. Baum in Perkasie and released on $50,000 unsecured bail. He is scheduled for formal arraignment Oct. 28 at the Justice Center in Doylestown.

The charges came after an investigation by Pennsylvania State Police and Bucks County Detectives into the fatal shooting Sept. 12 of Wyllie’s son, Benjamin Smith. The shooting occurred inside the home of Wyllie’s grandparents at 2190 Kumry Road in Milford Township, where Wyllie and the toddler resided.

According to a probable cause affidavit, state police troopers arrived to find emergency medical services workers tending to Benjamin Smith in the kitchen of the residence.

The child had suffered a single gunshot wound to the chest. He was taken to St. Luke’s Hospital in Quakertown, where he was pronounced dead at 11:40 a.m.

Wyllie told police that he and Benjamin had been watching television in the living room when the child announced that he was going to his room to watch Winnie the Pooh, the affidavit states. Three to five minutes later, Wyllie told police, he heard a loud bang, ran to his bedroom and found Benjamin lying on the floor, bleeding.

Police allege that the child found an unlocked, .45 caliber handgun, loaded with hollow-point ammunition, unsecured in his father’s bedroom, and accidentally shot himself with it.

“The worst part about it is that this was 100 percent avoidable,” Bucks County District Attorney Matthew D. Weintraub said.

Family members told investigators that Benjamin loved guns, the affidavit says.  His mother, Courtney Hotaling, provided police with photographs of Benjamin holding toy guns.

Hotaling, who did not live with Wyllie at the time of the shooting, said that she and Wyllie had taught the boy how to use a two-handed grip when holding a toy pistol.

Wyllie’s grandfather, Robert Rothmund, who owns the house where the shooting occurred, told police that he had advised Wyllie to put his firearms away because of the boy’s affection for guns. Wyllie told Rothmund that he would do so, the affidavit says.

Weintraub said that while Wyllie did not intend any harm to his child, “we believe and we will prove that he is nevertheless criminally responsible for his 2-year-old son’s death.”

The Washington Post has reported that at least 265 people in the United States were accidentally shot by children in 2015, about five per week. At least 83 deaths resulted from these shootings, which did not include homicides or suicides committed by teens.

The shootings often involved toddlers who found unsecured guns in their homes and accidentally shot themselves or others. Pennsylvania is one of 28 states having laws that hold gun owners criminally liable, to some degree, if children access their guns.

At least 186 shootings by children have been reported so far in 2016, including the Milford Township tragedy.

“I’m hopeful that we can resolve this case because the defendant is going to be serving a life sentence regardless of what happens to him criminally,” Weintraub said. “That’s the terrible tragedy here.”  



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Office of the District Attorney
Bucks County Justice Center
100 N. Main Street
Doylestown, PA 18901 
Phone: 215-348-6344 
Fax: 215-348-6299

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