Sources: Mom hid circumstances of daughter's shooting death

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Shakeya Holmes, seen here with her 4-year-old daughter, who fatally shot herself Thursday. Holmes was arrested and charged with third-degree murder.

The mother of a 4-year-old girl who was shot in her North Philadelphia home Thursday initially claimed that her daughter, Sani, was hit by an outside bullet - and failed to get immediate medical attention for her child, sources said Saturday.

Shakeya Holmes, 25, showed no emotion Saturday morning at her arraignment, appearing by video from Police Headquarters before a Municipal Court magistrate. She is charged with third-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter, concealing evidence, possession of an instrument of crime, and related offenses.

Sources said Holmes was charged with third-degree murder because she didn't immediately call for help and because she had a gun in her house in an unsafe place that was accessible to children.

Magistrate Jane Rice denied a motion to set bail for Holmes, ordering her kept in custody.

Holmes was in her townhouse on North 20th Street, near Berks, with her 3- and 4-year-old daughters around noon Thursday when the older girl is believed to have accidentally shot herself once above an eye with a gun she found in the second-floor front bedroom of the house.

After someone called 911 around 12:25 p.m., officers found the mother outside the house, hysterically crying, holding the wounded child.

The girl was rushed to Hahnemann University Hospital. Medics tried to revive her on the way, but she was pronounced dead at the hospital around 1 p.m. that day.

One law enforcement source said Saturday that when police went to the house after the shooting, the .40-caliber semiautomatic gun was found on a shelf that was about 5 ½ feet from the ground in a doorless closet of the second-floor front bedroom.

It's not known if the gun was on the shelf when the child grabbed it. But either way, the source said, the shelf would have been accessible to a child because there was a cubbyhole in the closet on which a child could climb to reach that part of the shelf.

The source said the mother initially claimed her daughter was hit by a bullet that flew into an open second-floor window of the bedroom, but that didn't make sense according to the evidence, including the bullet's trajectory.

Another law enforcement source said the mother was charged with third-degree murder because she acted with malice, or extreme disregard or recklessness for the girl's life.

There is "evidence she did not get medical attention for the child right away and was more concerned with covering up" the circumstances that led to her daughter's death, the source said.

Parents have a responsibility to immediately call 911, that source said.

The fact that the gun was kept in a place where it was accessible to children was another element that led to the mother's being charged with third-degree murder, the source said.

The mother showed "reckless behavior" by keeping the gun in an unsafe place and by failing to get immediate care for the girl after the shooting, the source said.

Police on Saturday also still were seeking Holmes' boyfriend, Demetrius Williams. They have an arrest warrant out for him on charges of involuntary manslaughter and related offenses in connection with the case.

Some neighbors and acquaintances of Holmes' have said her boyfriend also lived in the house. They did not know if he was the father of either of the girls.

The townhouse is in a development called Jackie's Garden, an affordable-housing community owned by Marlton-based Michaels Development Co. A spokeswoman for the company said Friday that she could not provide details about any residents.

Holmes faces a July 13 preliminary hearing.

Police have not said if the gun's ownership has been traced yet.

It was at least the third accidental shooting of a child this year in Philadelphia.

On April 7, a 9-year-old boy discovered his parents' loaded and unlocked gun in the bedroom of the family's Grays Ferry home and accidentally shot himself in a hand. He was treated for his injuries.

On April 16 in East Kensington, 4-year-old Tahirah Phillips was in a bedroom with her father, Maurice, and her six siblings - ages 13 years to 7 months - when her father, who police said was recklessly playing with his gun, accidentally fired it.

The bullet tore through the girl's head. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

After that shooting, police said, Maurice Phillips, 30, punched his 5-year-old daughter and wiped Tahirah's blood on her shirt to make it appear as if the girl had fired the shot that killed her sister.

He fled but was arrested later and charged with third-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter, endangering the welfare of children, and related offenses. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for July 13.

shawj@phillynews.com

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@julieshawphilly

Staff writer Stephanie Farr contributed to this article.