Mother, boyfriend charged in Martinsville boy's shooting death

Amanda Vandagrifft

MARTINSVILLE - A Martinsville mother is facing charges in the death of her six-year-old son. The boy's 11-year-old brother shot and killed him. Also, for the first time, we're learning why the 11-year-old says he pulled the trigger.

Shackled, and wearing a jumpsuit from the Morgan County Jail, Amanda Vandagrifft was led into court Wednesday facing a serious felony charge second only to murder in connection with the shooting death of her son Andrew Frye.

"There are things you can do with your weapons to lock them up, secure them, discipline and train the kids never to touch them," said Steve Sonnega, Morgan County prosecutor.

But that never happened. Prosecutors say on June 30, Vandagrifft's 11-year-old son took his mother's .22-caliber rifle from her bedroom and shot his brother Andrew between the eyes. She and her live-in boyfriend, Matthew Boulden, who faces less serious neglect charges, were not at home at the time of the shooting.

Morgan County Prosecutor Steve Sonnega says the mother bears more responsibility than the boyfriend in this case because she had information about her 11-year-old son's violent tendencies but failed to protect her children.

"It's difficult at any point in time that you see a child six years of age lose their life and another 11-year-old child who has a lot of hurdles to cross between now and adulthood," said Sonnega.

The boy's nine-year-old sister warned her mother about the potential for violence. A week before the shooting there was a confrontation between the boys. The girl said she was so afraid the 11-year-old would shoot Andrew that she "stepped in between the two of them and said, 'If you are going to kill him you are going to have to kill me too.'"

According to the probable cause affidavit, the older boy threatened his younger brother and sister with knives and guns on multiple occasions.

When the 11-year-old called 911, he said his brother accidentally shot himself. He later changed his story, saying he fired the shot and that he did it because his brother wouldn't clean their room. An autopsy found that Andrew Frye could not have shot himself based on the entry point of the bullet and the evidence around the wound.

Although the rifle was not loaded, the ammunition was nearby. The couple kept the weapon in a master bedroom but failed to secure it.

While she made no comments today, a detective reported that during questioning, "Mrs. Vandagrifft stated, ultimately, she was responsible for the activities that had occurred."

"The message is life is precious, first of all, and secondly when it comes to children, especially small children, the number one provider, the number one protector, the number one authority in that child's life are the parents," said Sonnega.

The probable cause affidavit also stated that Vandagrifft and Boulden would leave the children by themselves for up to 12 hours at a time on a regular basis. On two occassions, they went out of state on overnight trips.

Read the probable cause affidavit here. Note: names of juveniles and witnesses have been redacted.

Amanda Vandagrifft faces up to 59 years in prison if convicted. Her 11-year-old son is charged with the juvenile equivalent of murder.

The judge recused herself from the case because she knows Amanda's mother who works at the Morgan County Commissioner's office.

Other child shootings in Indiana

In all, police are investigating five shootings involving children in Indiana including four deaths in less than a month.

A four-year-old boy was shot and killed by a neighbor in rural Wells County south of Fort Wayne over the weekend.

Last Thursday, a Cedar Lake four-year-old accidentally shot and killed himself.

An 11-year-old boy is in a coma after he was shot in the head at a neighbor's home in Vermillion County on July 18th.

A two-year-old Connersville boy died July 14th after accidentally being shot by his five-year-old brother.

Andrew Frye died June 30th after being shot by his 11-year-old brother in their Martinsville home. A fact-finding hearing originally scheduled for July 26 was continued to Sept. 6 after the 11-year-old's attorney requested more time to review evidence and interview witnesses.