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Kelly L. Pittman

The 26-year-old Apison, Tenn., mother who was charged with criminally negligent homicide in the death of her 3-year-old son made her first appearance Friday in Hamilton County Criminal Court.

Judge Don Poole entered a "not guilty" plea for Kelly Pittman and set her next court date to July 21. From there, attorneys will gather evidence, prepare arguments and file motions as Pittman's case progresses toward either a settlement or a trial.

Authorities say Pittman was talking on the phone when she steered her minivan into the family's driveway at 4724 Gates Lane in Apison at 9:18 a.m. on Feb. 29. Leaving her three small children in the van, she stepped outside to continue the phone conversation. Moments later, she told investigators she heard a "pop."

Gavin, her son, had shot himself. The 3-year-old had unbuckled his car seat, crawled to the front of the van and unlatched the glovebox. Then he pulled out the loaded pistol that Pittman kept for protection.

A week later, Pittman was taken to the Hamilton County Jail and booked under the alias of Kelly Leigh-Anne Michaels. She was charged with criminally negligent homicide and child neglect and given a $500,000 bond. After Criminal Court Judge Tom Greenholtz signed off on an agreement between her attorney, Dan Ripper, and the district attorney's office, that bond was reduced to $2,000.

In March, after she waived her right to a preliminary hearing, Pittman's case was bound over to the grand jury. Earlier this month, it returned an indictment on her charges.

Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at 423-757-6347 or zpeterson@timesfreepress.com. Follow @zackpeterson918.

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