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Originally published Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 8:24 PM

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Trial's opening brings tears from officer whose son shot sister

A Marysville police officer, on trial for second-degree manslaughter because he left his gun where his children could reach it, sobbed as a Snohomish County prosecutor recounted the moments that led up to the death of his 7-year-old daughter at the hands of his 3-year-old son.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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EVERETT — Marysville police Officer Derek Carlile hung his head and sobbed Thursday as Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Lisa Paul recounted the moments that led up to his daughter's death at the hands of his 3-year-old son.

In her opening statement at Carlile's trial for second-degree manslaughter, Paul said Carlile was in a rush to get to a wedding with his family on March 10. When the 31-year-old officer got into the family's van, he put his off-duty handgun in a cup holder between the front seats and drove to Stanwood to drop off business cards at a friend's store, she said.

While Carlile and his wife were out of the car, his son got out of his booster seat, retrieved the gun and fatally shot his 7-year-old sister, Jenna.

Paul told jurors that Carlile knew that leaving a loaded, unsecured revolver in an enclosed van with four unsupervised small children posed a danger. He knew that his son, Steele, was fascinated with guns, she said. "As you would reasonably expect, Steele got out of his seat, got the gun and shot Jenna," she said.

In his opening statement, Carlile's attorney, David Allen, described his client as a careful parent who was "very obsessed with gun safety," but who made a tragic mistake that day.

"Derek accepts responsibility, but it will be clear that Derek is not guilty of manslaughter," said Allen. "He did not act with criminal, gross negligence ... it was a momentary lapse. This is a terrible, tragic accident, but it wasn't a crime."

According to state law, a person is guilty of manslaughter in the second degree when, with criminal negligence, he or she causes the death of another person.

Allen had sought to have the charge against Carlile dismissed, arguing that state laws do not address potential criminal penalties for adults who make it possible for children to get their hands on firearms. Allen argued that prosecutors were "trying to stretch the manslaughter statute" to criminalize Carlile's actions.

But Superior Court Judge Thomas Wynne refused to dismiss the charge and the Court of Appeals declined to review the judge's ruling.

Called to the stand by prosecutors on the trial's first day was the friend the Carlile family had stopped to visit in Stanwood on the day of the shooting and three police officers who responded to or investigated the shooting.

Carlile was distraught and "incredulous [that his gun] wasn't strapped to his ankle," said Snohomish County sheriffs Deputy David Chitwood.

Allen said he expects Carlile and his wife to take the stand on Friday.

Carlile, who has been with the Marysville Police Department since 2009, has been on paid administrative leave since the shooting

If convicted, he could face a standard sentence range of one year and nine months to two years and three months in prison.

Christine Clarridge: 206-464-8983 or cclarridge@seattletimes.com.

Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this report.

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