Local News

Arrest made in drive-by shooting that killed Weldon toddler

Posted December 14, 2017 2:51 p.m. EST
Updated July 13, 2018 1:40 p.m. EDT

— A week after a 1-year-old boy died after being shot in the head at his Weldon home in a drive-by shooting, authorities made an arrest in the case Thursday.

Malcolm Lukei Artis, 22, of Halifax, was apprehended in Lithia Springs, Ga., a suburb of Atlanta, shortly before 10 a.m., Weldon Police Chief James Avens Jr. said at an afternoon news conference.

The home at 711 Elm St. was sprayed with gunfire on Dec. 7, and Jaxson Ryder Clay was hit by a bullet inside the house.

Jaxson, who would have turned 2 on Dec. 23, was eating pizza with his family after they came home from the Weldon Christmas parade when he was shot, Avens said.

Jaxson's parents, great-grandfather and baby sister also were in the house but were unharmed, the police chief said.

He declined to discuss a motive for the shooting, other than to say it wasn't "a random event."

Authorities told the boy's parents of the arrest shortly before Jaxson's funeral Thursday afternoon, Avens said.

"They did a lot of work investigating, and I’d like to thank them," said Jaxson's father, Gene Clay. "I hope we get justice for Jaxson. He deserves that."

"I just hope that he knows that we loved him," said the boy's mother, Brittany Labonte. "We was always smiling, and he was just happy. ... We just loved him, loved him very much."

Labonte said she was surprised that authorities were able to make an arrest so quickly.

"I'm just happy for him," she said, wiping away tears.

"This holiday will never be the same," Clay said. "My birthday was Dec. 10. Now, all the rest of my birthdays are going to be in remembrance of him. My birthday is not going to be about me anymore. It will all be about him."

Artis has been charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder and discharging a firearm into an occupied dwelling causing serious bodily injury. He was being held without bond in Georgia pending extradition to North Carolina.

More arrests are possible as the investigation into the shooting continues, Avens said.

"This investigation doesn't stop just because we made one arrest. We still have several leads we're following," he said. "We're not going to stop until every lead has been followed up."

The State Bureau of Investigation is assisting Weldon police with the investigation.