Phila. father pleads to manslaughter in son's death

PHILADELPHIA - August 29, 2012

Javier Merle, 26, of Kensington pleaded guilty to manslaughter, weapons offenses and possession of heroin with intent to sell. He's in deep hot water.

It all stems from the July 2011 shooting death of his 4-year-old son, Javier, Jr., who found his father's 9 millimeter handgun and shot himself.

Police investigating the death found that Merle sold heroin from his Clementine Street home and kept the handgun, its serial numbers obliterated, in a sofa cushion.

Merle and two brothers-in-law left the child unattended when they went down the street to take part in a neighborhood brawl.

"They left a loaded gun in a sofa cushion with a child unattended and the child shot himself in the face," said Assistant District Attorney Lorraine Donnelly. "It went in his eye and out the back of his head."

As the neighborhood went into shock over the child's violent death, police discovered why the gun was in the home and accessible to such a small child.

"Bundles of heroin were recovered inside the house as well. The family got rid of the loaded gun before police arrived so they would not get in trouble," said Donnelly.

Merle's brothers-in-law go on trial in November for gun charges, involuntarily manslaughter and recklessly endangering the welfare of a child.

Merle's family left court Wednesday after the guilty plea refusing to talk to Action News about this enormous tragedy. Merle's lawyer said the evidence was overwhelming and a guilty plea was the only way to go.

"When he was arrested he later confessed to everything that went on. So his best opportunity was to show the court how remorseful he is. And as you heard, he's now depressed and he's on medication," said attorney Jeremy-Evan Alva.

Javier Merle will be sentenced on October 22nd. At that time Judge Benjamin Lerner has the option of giving him up to 70 years in prison.

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