Grandfather not indicted in toddler death

Grandfather not indicted in toddler death

January 27th, 2013 by Kate Harrison Belz in Local Regional News

Cars are parked in the driveway of the home of the grandparents of Brennan Nowell, a 2-year-old who died of a gunshot wound.

Photo by Allison Love/Times Free Press.

A grand jury has chosen not to indict a grandfather in the accidental shooting death of his 2-year-old grandson.

The Hamilton County District Attorney's Office had pursued a charge of criminally negligent homicide against Stan Nowell in the Dec. 20 death of Brennan Nowell, who accidentally shot himself with the .40-caliber pistol that his grandfather had left on a chair.

But on Wednesday, the Hamilton County grand jury returned a no-bill on the case -- meaning the case will not proceed further in the court system.

Stan Nowell is a pastor and a missionary who started Forgotten Child Ministries, an organization that helps street children in Honduras.

A woman who answered the door at the Nowell residence Friday said the family did not have anything to say about the case, and a representative for Forgotten Child Ministries said the organization had no statement.

Two weeks ago, Brennan's mother and Stan's daughter, Rebekah Nowell, wrote a personal obituary for her son.

"Before I knew my son I loved him with a depth of love that only comes from God," she wrote. "He gave my sweet angel to me for 2 years, 4 months and 1 day. Brennan was God's child before he was ever entrusted in my care. In these 2 short years I had the absolute honor to be his mommy."

She wrote further about how Brennan changed her life, how she plans to see him again one day, and how she hopes that somehow, good will be brought from Brennan's death.

"My sweet Brennan was truly an angel living on this earth. He touched so many people during his short stay with us here on earth and my hope and prayer is that he will touch so many more through this tragedy."

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The grand jury's job is to determine whether there is enough evidence for a defendant to go to trial. Typically, the grand jury is given a case after a General Sessions Court judge has bound it over.

In this and other unusual cases, prosecutors will bypass the General Sessions step and present investigators' evidence directly to the grand jury, explained Executive Assistant District Attorney Neal Pinkston.

"Sometimes you have one when investigation takes longer," he said.

Pinkston said he could not comment on the grand jury's decision since the decision is made in secret.

"They have to determine probable cause to issue the indictment, and they didn't find that in this case," he said.

Caretakers of several local children killed in recent shooting accidents have seen varied outcomes once their cases reached court systems.

A previous Hamilton County grand jury decided to indict Samantha and Thomas Wallace in the 2010 death of their 2-year-old daughter Camron Wallace, who was accidentally shot and killed by her 5-year-old brother.

The couple is awaiting trial later this year on a charge of criminally negligent homicide.

In Bradley County, a Tennessee Highway Patrol lieutenant, his wife and his two daughters were all indicted in the death of his 3-year-old granddaughter Kydalynn Graham, who accidentally shot herself with her grandfather's weapon last May.

All four Grahams have their next court date set for March 4.

In Whitfield County, Ga., the district attorney's office decided not to pursue charges against a 12-year-old boy who accidentally shot his 11-year-old sister, Cassie Culpepper, in the back of a truck last June.