On the evening of Oct. 5, a gunshot rang out at a home on Robinson Street in Hanahan. Police found a 10- year-old girl dead and began to conduct a homicide investigation. But things have changed. Arrest warrants say the brother and sister involved were left home alone and were given easy access to their mother’s bedroom where a loaded handgun sat inside a laundry basket on the floor.

Police have arrested the mother, Bernadette Renae Owens and charged her with two counts of unlawful conduct towards a child. On Oct. 16, police in Hanahan held a news conference to answer questions about the investigation and the arrest.

“We determined the victim was accidentally shot by another juvenile in the residence,” said Hanahan Police Chief, Dennis Turner. “We will not be pursuing charges against the juvenile in this matter.”

Turner said the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division was involved as well. State law requires that SLED be contacted when there is a suspicious death of a child. Turner said their agencies took several days to conduct interviews from those involved and could only come to one conclusion—this tragedy was totally avoidable.

“She left the residence and left a loaded firearm easily accessible by the children,” Turner said. “They were, in essence, doing what kids do, playing and unfortunately this gun was loaded and it took a life; it’s a very tragic incident.”

Turner said it was a difficult case to investigate, one of the hardest he has ever been involved in because of those involved.

“The 11-year-old is her brother,” (…) “Lives have been forever changed because of this; it’s a senseless act because of irresponsibility,” Turner said.

Owens faces a maximum of ten years in prison for each count of unlawful conduct towards a child. She was formally charged back on Oct. 9.

“This just isn’t a deceased 10-year-old little girl,” said Lt. Cassie Brooks, the case agent from the Hanahan Police Department. “We have a little boy that made a mistake and it was an accident and he is suffering right along with the rest of the family.”