Arizona police believe a 9-year-old boy who was fatally shot in the head this week might still be alive if his parents had quickly called 911

By Chris Harris
March 23, 2017 04:27 PM
Landen Lavarnia
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Arizona police believe a 9-year-old boy who was fatally shot in the head this week might still be alive if his parents had quickly called 911 — instead of allegedly spending hours cleaning up blood and other evidence.

Kansas and Wendy Lavarnia have each been charged with a single count of murder for their alleged failure to seek immediate medical care for son Landen Lavarnia, according to court records obtained by PEOPLE.

The boy was shot at the family’s Phoenix home on Monday afternoon.

In addition, Kansas, 31, faces child abuse and hindering prosecution charges. Both parents remain in police custody on $1 million bail. They have not entered pleas or retained attorneys, according to records.

A police spokesman tells PEOPLE Landen was shot under suspicious circumstances and that investigators have yet to determine who fired the fatal bullet — though Wendy, 28, claimed their son was shot by his 2-year-old brother.

Hospital officials pronounced Landen dead on Tuesday.

Phoenix police Sgt. Vince Lewis said at a news conference Wednesday that evidence gathered from the scene of the shooting “implies that a significant amount of time and effort was taken prior to contacting emergency services” to wash away blood and conceal other evidence.

“This intentional delay in medical treatment significantly endangered [Landen’s] health,” Lewis told reporters. “We have a 9-year-old boy critically wounded, shot in the head, in dire need of life-saving efforts and care which was delayed and not provided. … It definitely shocks your conscience.”

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“The delay in care was significant here and that’s what ultimately led to the charge of first-degree murder,” Lewis said.

Police were first made aware of the shooting late Monday, when Wendy Lavarnia called 911 and told police her 2-year-old son shot his brother after she left a loaded gun on a bed, Lewis said.

Officers arrived to find Landen on the floor. Wendy’s call was allegedly “hours” after the shooting.

From left: Kansas and Wendy Lavarnia.
Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office

“What we’ve learned through this investigation is that significant efforts were made to scrub the house clean and remove evidence while this young boy lay shot and dying,” Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams said at Wednesday’s news conference.

During Wednesday’s news conference, Lewis said Kansas Lavarnia is a convicted felon who is prohibited from owning a gun.

As detectives arrived at the scene, his wife allegedly told them her husband wasn’t home at the time of the shooting. But police quickly disproved that claim and they discovered Kansas had, himself, been shot in the arm.

Police believe that the man tried disguising his wound — using a screwdriver to puncture the skin around the bullet hole. At this point, investigators are still considering the possibility  thatthe bullet that entered and exited Kansas’ left arm was the very same bullet that killed Landen.

“Detectives found cleaned blood residue in the master bedroom, master bath, main bath, hallway and kitchen area and sinks,” according to court records. Charging documents indicate both parents are drug addicts.

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The Arizona Department of Child Safety said Wendy and Kansas Lavarnia “had a previous dependency case with DCS” involving Landen.

“On June 10, 2014, DCS received a report that Wendy Lavarnia, then named Wendy Rodriguez, gave birth to a baby who was substance exposed to methadone and heroin,” the state DCS said in a statement. “Ms. Lavarnia agreed to in-home services with DCS. She was referred to participate in Family Preservation services in order to address parenting skills, substance abuse issues, and provide additional support for the family. While receiving in-home services, Ms. Lavarnia tested positive for illegal substances.”

DCS removed the Lavarnia children from their home on Aug. 20, 2014, and the department filed a dependency petition with Arizona’s Maricopa County Juvenile Court.

“Both parents participated in services and worked towards reunifying with their children. Both engaged in services to address their substance abuse and domestic violence issues,” DCS’ statement explains. “They also received intensive parenting training and successfully completed this service.”

The Lavarnias regained physical custody of the kids on Nov. 15, 2015, though “the court maintained oversight and DCS maintained legal custody of the children.”

In March 2016, “a Maricopa County Juvenile Court judge dismissed the dependency after the parents demonstrated they had made the appropriate behavioral changes to safely parent their children. The department continued to engage the family until the case closure in June 2016.”

Following Landen’s shooting, his three siblings are in the department’s care.

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