Two mothers entered a Lucas County courtroom yesterday connected by one tragic event.
Dorothy Irish was there to be sentenced for letting her 10-year-old son play with a sawed-off shotgun that was used to accidentally kill 9-year-old Je'Juan Jordan - and to seek forgiveness.
Chenwon Hunt, the mother of the dead boy, was there to grant it.
"My son is already gone," Ms. Hunt said after the hearing. "She still has one here, and he needs her."
Judge James Jensen agreed with Ms. Hunt, saying that nothing would be served by sending Irish to prison for child endangering. Instead, he sentenced her to four years of community control, which will include 90 days of electronic monitoring and 200 hours of community service. She could have received up to five years in prison.
Irish, 53, of 2822 F. St. initially faced charges of involuntary manslaughter and child endangering because she left her home knowing that her son and three other boys were playing with a sawed-off shotgun one of them had found in a closet.
The boys were playing with the gun in an upstairs bedroom March 13 when it went off, the blast hitting Je'Juan in the head.
Sue Swanson, Irish's attorney, said her client and other family members didn't think the gun worked. She called the accident a "unique and uniquely horrible experience."
"There is nothing this court can do to punish her any more than she is punishing herself," Ms. Swanson told the judge.
Irish dabbed tears from her eyes during most of the hearing and had to sit down midway through it because it looked like she might collapse. Her hand was shaking so hard that water splashed from a small plastic cup she was given; she was only able to drink after Ms.
Swanson helped steady her.
When Irish had a chance to address Judge Jensen, her words were so choked with emotion that it was nearly impossible to make them out.
"I'm so sorry for what happened. I'm so sorry - I'm so sorry," she stammered before saying she couldn't go on.
Judge Jensen said both Ms. Hunt and Irish were living with indescribable pain. He said that even though he didn't think Irish should go to prison, some type of punishment was appropriate.
"I've looked at this from a number of perspectives.... However, I can't divorce myself from the fact that I am a parent," he said. "Ms. Irish has committed every parent's nightmare. That is a lapse of judgment that has caused substantial harm or, in this case, the death of a child."
The judge said he wants Irish to fulfill part of her community service obligation by speaking to groups about the danger of leaving guns around the house in the reach of children.
After the hearing, Ms. Hunt said her family will hold a party today for Je'Juan, who would have turned 10 Tuesday. She was able to forgive Irish because "God forgives us every day over and over and over again."
"I know she's hurting just as much as I am," she said.
Contact Dale Emch at:
or 419 724-6061.