Affidavit: gun used to shoot 13-year-old was left unattended on top of a refrigerator

Dejuan Yelverton
Dejuan Yelverton(WIBW)
Published: Jul. 7, 2021 at 4:32 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The Topeka Police Department believes a small child in the home of DaMya Hudnall took an unattended gun from the top of a fridge and shot her with it.

The Topeka Police Department says in an affidavit received from the Shawnee Co. District Court that on June 12, just before 11:30 a.m. officers responded to a home in Topeka with reports of a shooting. Upon arrival, it said officers found a victim in the front living room suffering from a gunshot wound to the head.

In the affidavit, the victim’s name has been redacted. However, 13 NEWS has learned that the victim was DaMya Hudnall, 13.

According to the affidavit, Hudnall was taken to Stormont Vail Hospital and put on life support as a result of her injuries. It said Hudnall’s injuries were catastrophic and her chance of survival seemed low. Ultimately, it said a decision to remove Hudnall from life support was made, at which point she died as a result of the injuries she sustained from the gunshot.

TPD said Robert Williams, Hudnall’s stepfather, was interviewed at the Law Enforcement Center while her mother, Tara Williams, was interviewed at Stormont Vail. It said both stated that they were asleep in their bedroom when they awakened to screaming.

According to Tara Williams, Dejuan Yelverton was the one that woke them up screaming about DaMya. Robert Williams said he did not remember who woke them up. The pair came out of their bedroom to find their daughter shot and lying on the floor.

The affidavit states that Robert Williams took two small children out of the home and to a grandparent’s house. It said the children were removed from the home before officers arrived.

Detectives tried to find the children for a welfare check and to conduct a SafeTalk. It said the children were not found at the grandparents’ house who were unaware of who picked the children up. Additionally, it said Robert would not say where the children could be or who found have picked them up. He did, however, assure officers before he was released that he would bring the children in for an interview.

Robert Williams repeatedly refused to provide information about the children and did not bring them by for an interview.

According to the affidavit, a third child was seen at the residence by officers when they arrived, however, he was allowed to leave with a family member. While the child was later seen at the hospital, it said the child was taken to his mother’s home. The name and location of the mother were not given to law enforcement.

The affidavit said a child was brought to the LEC for questioning and did speak to detectives. The child stated that he was asleep in the basement at the time of the shooting and that he did not hear the gunshot but was awakened by yelling and the commotion coming from upstairs. The child also said Yelverton came to the top of the stairs and repeatedly told him to stay downstairs. Additionally, the child said another child came running downstairs crying at the time.

TPD said Yelverton was also brought to the LEC for questioning. During a post-Miranda statement, it said Yelverton provided the following details:

On Thursday, June 10, Yelverton arrived at Hudnall’s home. He had come there to stay with his girlfriend as he had been asked to leave his apartment.

Yelverton was in possession of a black, Ruger 57, semi-automatic firearm when he arrived at the home and brought it inside.

On Friday, June 11, Yelverton put the gun on a waist-high deep freezer in the kitchen. He walked away from the gun and later returned to find it still sitting on the deep freeze. He had realized he had been careless in leaving the gun there as several children live at the home and like to play with guns. He then put the gun on the top of the refrigerator. He is confident the gun was still there when he went to bed around midnight. He thought about getting the gun before he went to sleep but decided to leave it there as he believed it would be okay. He said the children like to climb on things but he thought the gun would be safe.

Yelverton had placed the gun in the middle of the fridge with the handle hanging over the edge. He stated everyone knew the gun was up there.

Yelverton confirmed the fridge is where they keep food and sometimes tools. Particularly, cereal that the children eat.

Yelverton was downstairs on June 12, when he heard a gunshot come from upstairs. Before the shot, he had been upstairs speaking to a friend of Robert’s who had stopped by for a brief visit. Before going back downstairs, he said the only person in the front living room was Hudnall and that she was in a recliner in the middle of the room playing a videogame.

When he heard the gunshot, Yelverton said he ran upstairs to see what was going on when he found Hudnall slumped over in a chair in the living room with blood coming from her head. He said he also saw his gun lying near her feet on the floor. He confirmed that he saw another child in the room at the time as well.

Then, Yelverton said he awoke the Williams’ and checked on Hudnall.

Yelverton said he grabbed the gun and threw it under the living room couch. He said he then retrieved the gun and grabbed a pair of shorts from a bedroom, wrapped the gun up, and placed it in a box on the car in the garage. He said he had seen TV shows where people and police wrap guns in something to keep their fingerprints from getting on it.

Later in the interview, Yelverton said he did not know how any of the children would have been able to get the gun from the top of the fridge. He also said that two children liked to play with guns and one, in particular, loves guns and has picked up real guns in the house before the incident. He said the child had also actually almost fired a gun inside the house on one occasion.

Yelverton said he often let others hold and look at his gun. He said he thought it was possible a friend of a child may have seen the gun the night before and taken it off the fridge. He does not know if any of the child’s friends had come to the home that night but said that could be a theory as to how the gun may not have been on top of the fridge.

Yelverton said he sat the gun down and “didn’t think much of it.”

“I get careless sometimes,” said Yelverton.

Yelverton admitted to being a convicted felon who is not allowed to have firearms.

According to the affidavit, a search warrant for the house was executed due to the shooting. During the search, it said officers found the Ruger wrapped in a pair of gray shorts where Yelverton said it would be. It said the gun appeared to have blood on it and a single spent shell casing was found in a dog pen in the front living room, which sits diagonally to where Hudnall was in the recliner.

On June 14, TPD said two children were found at a home around 9 a.m. after detectives were tipped off to their whereabouts. It said the children were found at a home of a friend of Tara Williams. It was found that Robert took the children to the home around midnight on Monday and their location before that could not be confirmed. It should be noted that detectives were unable to get any information about the children from either of the Williams’ despite their knowing the children needed to be interviewed.

The affidavit states that the children were brought to the Life House Child Advocacy Center where they were interviewed. During one child’s interview, he stated several times a phrase that sounded like “he killed.” It said the child also clearly stated that another child “killed” and that “fire did it.” The child also said that he saw that another child was there and that he witnessed the accident.

The other child brought to the center on June 14 for an interview said Hudnall was shot and that he was in a room playing with the puppy.

On June 14, the affidavit states that detectives spoke to another person at the LEC. This person stated that he was on a Facebook FaceTime call with DaMya before the shooting. The person confirmed DaMya was sitting in the recliner playing a video game while he was speaking to her. He said he did not see the shooting as DaMya had set the phone down and all he could see was the television and ceiling. He did no see anyone else in the room.

During a conversation with the friend of Tara Williams when officers found the missing children, she informed detectives that she is a friend of Tara’s and familiar with her home and her children. She said that the children constantly climb on things including things in the kitchen and that often the children will set a chair next to the fridge so they can get cereal from off the top.

The affidavit states that officers took measurements of each of the children involved. The next day it said officers returned to the home to take measurements of the kitchen appliances and recliner. Based on measurements, detectives believe the gun was used to shoot DaMya and was brought into the home by Yelverton.

Detectives believe one of the small children in the home used a chair to reach the top of the fridge where the gun was taken while the children were unsupervised. Measurements also show that it is possible that any of the three children in the home could have gotten the gun from the top of the fridge.

According to the affidavit, Yelverton had previously been convicted in Shawnee Co. for a felony after he pleaded guilty to the theft of a firearm with a value less than $25,000 in January of 2020.

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