Local News

'I never felt like it was an accident:' Harnett mother wants justice in son's shooting death

Posted December 12, 2017 3:25 p.m. EST
Updated July 13, 2018 1:40 p.m. EDT

— A witness to a shooting at a home outside Lillington last month that left a 15-year-old dead says the whole thing was a terrible accident.

In a court hearing Tuesday, Trey Howard, 15, said he was with Emmanuwell Leigh Nelson, 16, and Owen Caltagirone, 15, on Nov. 13 when a gun went off and a bullet hit Caltagirone in the chest.

Nelson was charged with second-degree murder and made his first court appearance on Tuesday.

"We went hunting the night before and forgot to empty that one particular gun I guess," Howard said. "It was in a direction, so that when it went to be moved, the gun was old, and I guess something got caught on it and caused it to go off."

Deputies were headed to another call on N.C. Highway 27 shortly before 1 a.m. that morning, when they were flagged down by several people who had been administering CPR to Caltagirone in the back of a truck.

The people were taking the teen from the shooting site to Central Harnett Hospital when they stopped for the assistance of deputies and paramedics.

Caltagirone was pronounced dead at the scene. The sheriff said that the boy had been shot in the chest with a shotgun.

Immediately before the shooting, Nelson, Caltagirone and Howard were in a one-room building behind the house where Caltagirone's parents and grandparents live. During the investigation, law enforcement authorities said they found several weapons in the building where the shooting occurred although they did not say who owned the weapons or why they were at the residence.

Outside the courtroom, Nelson’s mother was emotional after seeing her son in an orange jumpsuit and handcuffs.

"He is suffering hard, and he don't need to be in there. He didn't mean to do that," Phyllis Nelson said. "Two lives have been turned upside down here. Owen, unfortunately we can't bring him back. It was truly an accident. And Emmanuwell has to live with that every single day."

Nelson's family said they were surprised when he was arrested and charged with second-degree murder. If convicted, he could spend 40 years behind bars.

"It's an accident. It was all an accident ... I need my son," Phyllis Nelson said.

Caltagirone's mother, Sandy Caltagirone, said Tuesday she wishes she could believe her son's death was truly an accident.

"I never felt like it was an accident. I know they say it was an accident and want to believe them," she said. "They must have some type of evidence that they're not sharing. I don't know what that evidence is and I hope they'll let us know before his court date."

Sandy Caltagirone said Nelson and her son were close friends and the teen even stayed at her house for three months. She says she wants justice in her son's death, but is prepared to deal with whatever the final outcome may be.

"At least [Phyllis Nelson] still has her son. She can go, she can hug him, she can talk to him, she can tell him that she loves him and he can respond. We're left with nothing but pictures," she said.

Nelson is being held in jail on a $400,000 bond. His next court date is Jan. 2.