ONLY ON 3: Foster parent of Apison toddler's siblings defends mo - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

ONLY ON 3: Foster parent of Apison toddler's siblings defends mom

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More friends are speaking on behalf of an Apison mother charged with homicide after her 3-year-old was killed while playing with a gun. 

"It's a horrible tragedy and it shouldn't have happened, but I think there are a lot of things in life that should not happen," Janet McElroy said. 

Moments after first responders arrived that dark February day, McElroy immediately took custody of Kelly Pittman's surviving kids ages 10, 5 and 1. McElroy says they were Pittman's main concern in the days after the shooting. 

"She worked very hard to try to make sure that I had everything that I needed. She'd bring me food for them, clothing, she'd spend as much time as she possibly could with them when she could," she said. 

Now Pittman sits behind bars charged with Criminally Negligent Homicide and Child Endangerment. 

Police say Pittman knew Gavin Pittman, 3, could get out of his car seat and that she didn't take measure to safeguard access to the loaded gun inside the glove box.

But McElroy says Pittman's arrest only hurts Gavin's siblings.

"They lost their brother and their mother and they didn't deserve to lost anyone," she added. 

The Department of Child Services tell Channel 3 they've been involved with the family before but McElroy, who's worked as an educator for 30 years and has fostered two children of her own, says she's never seen any signs of abuse inside the Pittman home. 

"I would never hesitate to report somebody that I felt like was not taking care of their children," she said. 

Pittman is being held at the Hamilton County Jail on a $500,000 bond. She's due in Judge Bales' courtroom on March 14. 

The mom of an Apison toddler, killed while playing with a gun, has been charged with criminally negligent homicide.

A release from the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office says 26-year-old Kelly Pittman has been charged with criminally negligent homicide and child endangerment in the shooting death of her 3-year-old son, Gavin Pittman, on February 29.

READ MORE | Officials release name of Apison toddler killed while playing with gun

The Sheriff's Office says the toddler was playing with a pistol when it fired, hitting him in the face.

The police report says Kelly Pittman left Gavin and two other small children inside her car while she was outside talking on the phone.

During that time, Gavin was able to get out of his car seat and get access to a loaded pistol Pittman keeps in the glove compartment. Gavin accidentally shot himself in the face with that gun and later died from his injuries.

Pittman is charged in her son's death because police say she had knowledge her son could get out of his car seat by unlocking the safety belt, and Pittman stored a loaded firearm inside her vehicle "without taking measures to safeguard access to the weapon."

Channel 3 spoke with a neighbor who believes Gavin's death was truly and accident, and Pittman is a good mother.

"An accident period," the neighbor said, "Because Kelly does not mistreat her children and will not mistreat her children. I see her children all the time, her with her children and she is a good mother."

The neighbor says Gavin was a very active child and could sometimes be a handful.

"Climbing out of his car seat and her asking please don't get out of your car seat, and he would get out anyways. He did do that, I've seen that myself," she said.

The Department of Child Services is conducting its own investigation alongside law enforcement. Spokesperson Rob Johnson says three other children, ages one, five and 10, have been removed from the home and placed with a family friend who has been vetted by the department.

DCS can only give out limited information, but says they have been involved with this family, regarding a separate incident, within the past three years.

Pittman was booked into the Hamilton County Jail under a $500,000 bond.

She's due in Judge Bales' courtroom on March 14.

Stay with for updates to this story.

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