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Weapon's owner charged in wake of girl's discovery
By Alex Bridges -- email@example.com
WINCHESTER -- A girl found a loaded gun in a Wal-Mart bathroom last month, according to Frederick County authorities.
Now the owner of the firearm stands accused of recklessly leaving the firearm for a child to find.
A deputy charged Tammy Renea Costello, 49, of 802 Enfield Drive, Winchester, with one count of recklessly leaving "a loaded, unsecured firearm so as to endanger the life or limb of a child of less than 14 years old. The charge is a class 3 misdemeanor. The offense is a class 1 misdemeanor if the child is under the age of 12.
Deputy S.A. Moore responded to Wal-Mart on U.S. 50 west of Winchester on March 26 for a report of a loaded firearm found in a women's restroom. Store employee Seth Flickinger's 12-year-old daughter found the firearm on top of the toilet paper dispenser, according to a criminal complaint filed in the case in Frederick County General District Court on Monday.
"[Flickinger] had her retrieve it and turn it over to him, then he turned it in to the customer service desk," the complaint states. "The firearm, a .38-caliber Taurus ultra lite revolver, was loaded when it was found."
Costello returned to Wal-Mart to try to locate her gun and was told it had been turned over to the Sheriff's Office, according to the complaint. Costello went to the Sheriff's Office headquarters, showed proof of ownership and the gun was returned to her.
"She said she dropped her purse and all of the contents spilled onto the floor and she didn't notice the gun was missing until she was nearly home," the complaint states.
Moore served Costello the summons Saturday afternoon.
While the firearm did not discharge, according to the court documents, accidental shootings have resulting in hospitalization and death.
The Virginia Center for Vital Statistics reports eight children under the age of 18 died in unintentional firearm-related incidents between 2006 and 2009, the latest year available, according to Stephanie Goodman, injury data and evaluation coordinator with Division of Prevention and Health Promotion in the Virginia Department of Health's Office of Family Health Services.
During that same period, the state saw 79 youths hospitalized for unintentional firearm-related injuries, including 20 in 2009 alone. Of the total between 2006 and 2009, 56 percent of the hospitalizations were for children ages 14-17, Goodman states, citing a patient database from Virginia Health Information Inc.
Data from both sources includes only those Virginia residents who die in the state or are hospitalized in a non-military or non-veteran's facility.
Data does not include those injured and seen by hospital emergency departments, doctors' offices or urgent care clinics, according to Goodman.