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February 11, 1983

Blessed Are the Children

Author Affiliations


JAMA. 1983;249(6):702. doi:10.1001/jama.1983.03330300016009

A few hours earlier, she had been a happy, smiling, beautiful blonde 2 1/2-year-old, with the innocence befitting her tender age. While playing with her 5-year-old brother, they chose to use their parents' bed as a trampoline, as nearly every child has. In a moment of sisterly pique, she hit her brother with a stick. In retaliation, he pulled a.357 Magnum pistol from its holster, which hung from the bedpost, and discharged a load of snakeshot (about 100 tiny pellets, each the size of a poppy seed) at point-blank range into her abdomen. She died on the operating table during emergency surgery.

Now, she seemed tiny on the autopsy table, filling only a fraction of the cold, polished surface. A raggedly closed incision extended from xiphoid to pubis; near its center, a black, charred area disrupted the clean outlines of the wound edges. Inside her abdomen, small holes marred the