Trial Pending for Ford City Man

Even though the stepmother of a six-year-old Ford City boy shot last August will not face trail, her husband will.

After a motion was filed last month, Armstrong County Court of Common Pleas President Judge Kenneth Valasek accepted Crista’s request for six months in an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program and 25 hours of community service.

According to State law, the pre-trial intervention program allows rehabilitation of the accused with no or limited prior record.

Judge Valasek also withdrew a felony count of knowingly endangering the welfare of children by violating a duty of care, protection or support – namely, by knowingly leaving unsecured and unsupervised guns and ammunition within the home in violation of Section 4304(a) of the PA Crimes Code.

However, last week, Judge Valasek denied Christopher B. McNeely’s guilty plea of misdemeanor reckless endangering another person during his sentencing proceeding – meaning trial is imminent.

Christopher is also charged with the two felony endangering the welfare of children charges, but also faces two felony charges of possession of a firearm by a minor and two charges of misdemeanor recklessly endangering another person.

Both were arrested in September.

Aug. 5, 2015, the couple’s nine-year-old son was playing with his father’s Ruger .380 pistol, using the laser sight to play with their dog in the kitchen. According to the affidavit of probable cause, the boy stopped playing with that weapon after the dog began baring. It was then that he picked up a 9mm Ruger pistol, removed its “ammo pack” and aimed it at the floor, but had accidentally shot his six-year-old half-brother.

After being interviewed by police, Crista reported that Christopher unloaded both guns ad made sure no bullets were in them the night before. She also told police the children were not permitted to play with the guns prior to the incident, but have with the Ruger .380 pistol.

Christopher also told police the handguns were empty and that he had even “dry fired” them to make sure. He then reloaded the magazines with ammunition and put the loaded magazines in each weapon, however, and left the weapons on top of the kitchen counter before going upstairs for the night.

Rifles and a shotgun were stored in a son’s bedroom. Police searched the home that day and found the pistols in the kitchen, but also five unsecured long guns and more than 8,600 rounds of ammunition on the bedroom floor at the base of the nine-year-old’s bed.