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I-TEAM: As girl fights to recover from accidental shooting by brother, their mom is charged

(Source: Stephanie Thomas, Joelle's mother)
(Source: Stephanie Thomas, Joelle's mother)(WRDW)
Published: Apr. 28, 2020 at 4:11 PM EDT
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Tuesday, April 28, 2020

The mother of a 2-year-old girl who was accidentally shot by her 8-year-old brother has been charged with cruelty to children in the second degree, according to authorities.

The incident happened April 13 in the 800 block of Cummings Road in Evans. Authorities have said the mother left her children alone in a room. As they watched television, the boy found a gun and began playing with it, authorities say. The girl was shot in the abdomen by accident.

The mother, Stephanie LaWanda Thomas, was charged and released Tuesday after posting a $22,800 bond, according to authorities.

Doctors didn't think the girl, Joelle Denise Curry, would make it through that first night after the shooting. But two weeks and eight surgeries later, she is still here, and she's still fighting.

"I don't know. It's just hard right now," her mother, Thomas, told News 12 on Tuesday, apparently before she was arrested.

She gave News 12 this statement on Wednesday:

"I don’t even know where to begin this whole situation is so overwhelming me. As a mother I was already dealing with so much that the public does not know and I am not sure it is the right time for them to know," she said.

She said she was in the process of removing herself and her children from a toxic situation and starting over for us due to the coronavirus outbreak.

"Speaking to the officer yesterday he told me that I was charged with the child cruelty because I was intoxicated," she said, but added that she was never given any sobriety test.

"They are also stating because my child whom was accused of being the trigger person was my minor child who inflicted harm on another child," she said in her statement. "I am starting to feel like nobody is speaking for mine and my children’s well being and I am being railroaded as a bad or unfit mother when that is not the case. I don’t know who to reach out to what to say and what not to say for the best interest of my children and myself.

"I don’t know what lawyer or who is willing to help me but at this point I need all the help I can get."

On Tuesday, she told News 12 she'll never forget the sound of the gun.

"Pop," Thomas said. "And it happened that fast and my son came to me say that my daughter got shot."

She ran to her girl, brought her outside, and started CPR.

"She was changing colors, and you could see her going out -- and she just took -- I did it, did it, did it -- got the 15th compression and she said." Thomas took a breath. "And she came back, and by that time, I got all shook up, and all I could see what the ambulance coming."

When the little girl got to the hospital, Joelle's prognosis wasn't good.

"It hit almost every major organ in her body because when the bullet went in, it spread," Thomas said.

Thomas is also worried about another wound -- the one spreading in her son who had the gun.

"He's 8," Thomas said. "He's not going to forget the finger-pointing. He's not going to forget this."

She says the Division of Family and Children Services took him and her other son until the investigation is complete. The boys are now with family. Her sons will also start counseling soon.

"'OK.' That's the only thing I could say was, 'OK -- I'm going to do what y'all tell me to do,'" Thomas said.

She can't say much about the investigation, but she says she's looking forward to the truth coming out.

She did answer one question about the gun: Whether it belonged to her.

"No. It wasn't mine. Period," Thomas said.

And right now -- she's just focusing on Joelle. Even with COVID-19 fears, she can visit and calls her every day.

"She's responding yes and no. She's looking at you. She's smiling," Thomas said. "She still have the tube down her throat, but you can still see her smile."

But with no movement yet from the waist down, Thomas fears her girl could be paralyzed.

"God gives his hardest struggles to the strongest soldiers," Thomas said. "That's how I look at it."

For Thomas, it's all in God's hands now as she waits for Joelle's laughter and her boys to fill her home and heart again.

Stephanie also wanted to say thank you to the community -- a

has raised more than $1,600 to help with medical bills.

Copyright 2020 WRDW/WAGT. All rights reserved.

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