(WBIR - VIENNA, Va.) As local authorities investigate the death of a 3-year-old boy who lived at the home of convicted school shooter Kenny Bartley, the child's mother told 10News that he was not at fault for her son's death.
Erin TePaske told WBIR at her Vienna, Va., home that Kenny Bartley was a loving figure to her son, Beckett Podomonick, and is devastated by the child's death. TePaske asked everyone to please respect the family's privacy and allow friends and family to mourn and grieve, including Kenny Bartley.
"It's very, very sad for my family," she said. "And Kenny had nothing to do with this tragedy. I know Tennessee loves their Kenneth Bartley stories, but they're not getting anything here. This is our time to grieve. Kenneth is like family to me and this is beyond comprehension right now."
TePaske acknowledged Bartley's violent past but said she doesn't "want my son's death to be connected" to it, but that she understands "the scrutiny."
Beckett Josef Podomonick died from severe head trauma, according to authorities.
Bartley already is facing scrutiny from a Campbell County judge. In April, Judge E. Shayne Sexton signed a violation of probation warrant for Bartley.
Documents show Bartley had violated probation terms set down by Sexton within weeks of the judge putting him on probation in February.
A device he was ordered to wear indicated he was using alcohol, according to records.
The judge told 10News on Thursday that Bartley also wasn't giving various monitoring agencies timely reports on his status as required, according to the judge.
The violation of probation warrant notes Bartley's "failure to provide a P.O. of current physical address and contact information."
"Unfortunately it's a misdemeanor – and the state is not planning on extraditing him back," the judge said.
Sexton said it was his understanding that extradition is a governor's call – and that they don't extradite people who have committed misdemeanors such as the domestic assault offense for which Bartley was on probation.
If Bartley does come back here to live, the judge said he very much wants to continue to monitor him and make him answerable to the court.
He also said he was confident that Virginia authorities knew Bartley had violated his probation this spring and that the Campbell County warrant had been issued. He said he made a point of informing authorities in Virginia that Bartley was in trouble with the court.
"We wanted them to know he was out of compliance," Sexton said. "We wanted him back."
Defense attorney Gregory P. Isaacs, who has represented Bartley in his criminal cases, issued a statement Thursday.
"I've been in communication with Kenneth Bartley. He is devastated about the unfortunate accident that led to the death of Beckett. Kenneth has cooperated with law enforcement's request for interviews, which are routine in a case of this nature involving the death of a child. I also spoke with Erin TePaske, with whom Kenneth resides, and she agrees this was a very unfortunate accident that was unavoidable. I would request that everyone respect the family's privacy regarding this very unfortunate accident."
Bartley with child Sunday
Neighbors told 10News that Bartley has been a visible and loving figure to Beckett in the small city outside Washington, DC.
The young child suffered fatal injuries in Vienna at the home where Bartley, convicted of killing a Campbell County High School administrator when he was 14, has relocated.
The death is being investigated as routine procedure, but authorities have declined to release details.
TePaske did tell 10News that Bartley was with the child and that he fell climbing some stairs.
She said she had left the house "for about 10 minutes" but didn't elaborate.
Authorities have required regular check-ins from the 23-year-old Bartley ever since he was allowed to leave Tennessee and move to Virginia in February.
Young boy born in Knoxville
Over the weekend, emergency crews got a call about an injured child at the TePaske home.
The injury happened on Mother's Day. At 7:59 p.m. Sunday, Vienna Police responded to a call about a boy who was injured in an accident at the single-family residence. When police arrived, fire and rescue crews were already treating the boy and flew him to an area hospital.
The medical examiner did an autopsy on Beckett on Wednesday. There are no results of that autopsy as of yet. The child's body is still in possession of the medical examiner's office.
Police have not said Bartley is suspected of any criminal wrongdoing and they are not divulging any other information about the incident.
Beckett was born in Knoxville on May 4, 2012, to TePaske and Matt Podominick.
TePaske told WBIR that the child's father "knows it was a tragic accident."
"Kenny is very upset," she said. "He loved my son, too, he was like a big brother."
The child's maternal grandfather, Gerald TePaske, lives in Maryland just across the state line from Vienna. TePaske told 10News: "My grandson died as the result of an accident. That's really all I want to say. Authorities are 'conducting a routine investigation.' Whenever a child dies, they want to check for abuse. But that's really all I can say. This is still an ongoing situation."
WBIR's sister station, WUSA 9 in Washington, DC, spoke to the maternal grandmother. She emphasized they believe this was an accident and seemed taken aback that the reporter would question otherwise.
Police would not comment on if they had been called to the home at any point since Bartley moved here.
As for why Bartley was living with TePaske and her son in Virginia to begin with, TePaske is a former psychological counselor with Helen Ross McNabb and helped treat Bartley many years ago. She agreed to help Bartley with psychological treatment now that he is an adult who spent eight years behind bars during almost his entire teenage life and early 20s.
2005 fatal school shooting
In 2005, 14-year-old Bartley shot and killed Campbell County Comprehensive School administrator Ken Bruce and wounded the school's principal and vice principal. Bartley confessed to the crime, pleaded guilty, was convicted of first-degree murder and, went to prison.
The conviction was eventually thrown out based on problems with the guilty plea. Bartley got a new trial, was convicted of a reduced crime of reckless homicide, and was set free with time served in February 2014.
It only took Bartley a few months to get back in legal trouble. Bartley assaulted his father and his mother on separate occasions, pleaded guilty to domestic assault, and was sentenced to probation.
With Bartley living in an area where he was despised by many and had a volatile relationship with relatives, TePaske agreed to give Bartley a fresh start in Virginia and provide psychological treatment.
Judge Sexton signed an order in February that allowed Bartley to leave the state and live with TePaske while still under the watchful eye of the court. He was required to undergo counseling, find a full-time job, and submit written progress reports every 45 days.
Bartley was also required to wear a device called a SCRAM bracelet that monitors if he consumes alcohol, which authorities said he contributed to the domestic assault charges.
Vienna police say it is too early to say anything without autopsy results, which they say can take days, weeks, or even months to complete depending on the backlog at the Medical Examiner's Office.
"This is a test - a test for all of us," TePaske said. "And it's something we will get through."
WBIR's Investigative Team is in Vienna, Va. We'll have reports throughout the day on 10News. Our coverage begins during First Look at 4:00pm.
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