Banner Staff Writer
Charges against a now-retired Tennessee Highway Patrol state trooper, his wife and two daughters were resolved in Bradley County Criminal Court following the accidental shooting death of a young family members.
Charges against Deborah Louise Graham and Elizabeth Hayden Graham were dismissed by the court. Judge Carroll Ross agreed to a two-month Judicial diversion in charges against veteran Trooper Tommie Graham and the mother of Kydalynn Robinson, Jennifer Haylee Graham.
The 3-year-old Robinson reportedly found a weapon belonging to Tommie Graham inside he and his wife’s bedroom May 30, 2012.
She reportedly fired the .45 caliber handgun, striking herself in the left eye.
She died a short time later after being transported to SkyRidge Medical Center for treatment, according to reports.
Tommie Graham was indicted by a Bradley County grand jury on charges of criminally negligent homicide and reckless endangerment. His wife and two daughters were indicted on one count each of reckless endangerment.
According to statements made by attorneys in the courtroom Tuesday, the Grahams’ bedroom was a place “where Kydalynn and her cousin went to watch television.”
Bradley County Sheriff’s Office investigators learned that Robinson and her 2-year-old cousin were in the family’s home located in Benwood.
“The mother was in another area of the house and the two children were in the room where the shooting occurred,” Sheriff Jim Ruth said after the initial investigation began.
In the indictment against Graham, a grand jury document said the longtime trooper, “... fail[ed] to secure a loaded pistol knowing that minor children frequented the room which resulted in death to Kydalynn Jade Louise Robinson.”
Graham reportedly retired while he was on discretionary leave from the THP.
Ross said both Tommie Graham and Jennifer Haylee Graham can file to have their records expunged after their diversion period is completed.
Attorneys for the Grahams were Scott Kanavos, Andrew Brown, Joe Hoffer and James Logan. The prosecuting attorney for the 10th Judicial District Attorney General’s Office was Andy Watts.
Logan said it was one of the saddest cases he had experienced in court in his 40-plus years of practicing law.
“He (Tommie Graham) was an exemplary public servant for 35 years and prosecuted his cases with vigor and he wouldn’t put his family through this intentionally,” Logan said.
“He would give his life for his family,” Logan added.
Hoffer said, “Nobody has suffered more than this family and the mother of Kydalynn.”
The court utilized the Grahams’ family history, work and personal ethics and other factors to determine the resolution in the case, according to attorney statements.
Ross said he was glad all attorneys involved could come to a resolution in the “best interest” of the family.
“I hope this brings some closure to you and your family,” Ross told an emotional father and daughter.
“We want to thank everyone for their prayers and consideration during this time,” said Tommie Graham.
He also thanked all of the attorneys involved in their defense.
Logan issued a full statement Wednesday afternoon.
“A good and decent public servant would never allow his family members to be subjected to a trial involving the death of his granddaughter. Tommie Graham has entered a plea of Nolo Contendere (No Contest) which avoids this possibility. His greatest suffering is the assertion that he is responsible for the death of a child whom he loved. No one can suffer greater pain. It is truly a day that everyone associated with the case regrets. His agreement to enter the plea gives more than a pound of flesh but brings this matter to conclusion.”
Logan also expressed his appreciation for the services of attorneys Scott Kanavos, Joe Hoffer and Andy Brown.
“I am proud to be a member of a Bar Association which is comprised of lawyers like these gentlemen who serve to protect the rights of people when their compensation is either not available or justice would be offended at imposing substantial additional monetary harm,” Logan said.
“It was a highly emotional moment in Bradley County Criminal Court when strong lawyers and officers of the Court cried quietly during the proceedings,” Logan said. “The Graham family does not have adequate words to express the appreciation they feel for the support of Tommie’s fellow law enforcement officers, their co-workers and friends.
“Though Tommie retired early this year, he never lost the support and comfort of his brothers and sisters in the law enforcement community. They are ever in the prayers of his family,” Logan said.