Lawrence father charged with involuntary manslaughter in shooting death of 1-year-old daughter

photo by: Sara Shepherd

Lawrence police investigate a shooting in the 600 block of North Michigan Street, Friday, Sept. 22, 2017.

The father of a 1-year-old girl who was fatally shot last fall is now facing criminal charges in connection with her death.

Chance M. Smith, 32, of Lawrence was arrested on those charges Friday afternoon, jail records show. His bond was listed as $10,000.

He is charged with one count of involuntary manslaughter, a felony, according to a complaint filed May 14 and released to the Journal-World by the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office following Smith’s arrest Friday. The portion of the state statute he is charged with describes involuntary manslaughter as the killing of a human being “committed recklessly.”

photo by: Journal-World File Photo

Chance Smith

Police have never disclosed and charges do not make clear any circumstances surrounding the shooting, including whether anyone — adult or child — was handling the gun when it fired. District Attorney Charles Branson’s office did not respond to a request for further details late Friday afternoon.

The police investigation remained open for a number of months before being turned over to the DA’s office for review.

In the same complaint, Smith also is charged with two counts of aggravated endangering a child for allegedly causing or permitting two children “to be placed in a situation in which the child’s life, body or health is endangered.” One of those children was his daughter, who died, and the other was another unnamed toddler who was 2 years old at the time, according to the complaint.

photo by: Journal-World file photo

Autumn Grace Smith

Autumn Grace Smith was about a month shy of her second birthday when she died.

The shooting happened about 10:30 a.m. Sept. 22, 2017, at the Smith family’s home in the 600 block of North Michigan Street.

First responders attempted life-saving measures, but the child could not be revived and was declared dead at the scene, according to police.

The police department never released further information about what happened but said in a news release at the time that the shooting was believed to be accidental, adding that “this investigation has been incredibly difficult for everyone involved, but most importantly the family of the child.”

Following the shooting, Autumn’s family also declined to share details about what happened.

In an interview with the Journal-World in September her mother, Megan Smith, said only that “the impossible was possible” that day and that she and her husband, Chance Smith, were devastated.

“It’s everyone’s worst nightmare,” Megan Smith said. “We are in so much disbelief, and it’s unimaginable.”

Smith said at the time that the couple was leaning on faith in God and support from friends and relatives as they focused on continuing to raise their older son and trying to heal from their loss.


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