COBB COUNTY, Ga. — A Tennessee woman who left a loaded handgun near young children in a Cobb County motel room pleaded guilty to several charges and has been sentenced to prison, according to John Melvin, Cobb County’s acting district attorney.
“The evidence repeatedly shows this Defendant’s total apathy and lack of the concern for the victim, as well as the danger she put all of the children in,” said Assistant District Attorney Lindsay Raynor, in a statement.
The incident happened over Memorial Day weekend in 2018. Tashia Lenette Woods, 34, was with a group of other adults and several children who traveled to Cobb from Tennessee to visit Six Flags Over Georgia. The group was staying at the Comfort Inn & Suites near SunTrust Park.
According to prosecutors, Woods left the motel room she was sharing with other members of the group at about 11:30 a.m. on May 28, 2018, to dig around in large trash bins outside the motel. Prosecutors said she was looking for marijuana she accidentally threw out the night before.
While she was outside, Woods’ 5-year-old nephew found a loaded gun in her bag and fired a round, striking a 3-year-old boy in the face. Prosecutors said that the bullet went through the toddler’s cheeks, blasting out several of his teeth. Incredibly, the bullet did not hit his brain.
The child started screaming and crying. As others rushed to try and help him, prosecutors said Woods “calmly” returned to the room and tried to hide the gun. She first put the gun in a trash can, then in a hidden compartment of a vehicle. Woods and the child’s father drove the child away from the motel and no one called 911. A hotel employee jotted down the car’s vehicle tag and called police.
Officers from the Cobb County Police Department, some of whom were working the Atlanta Braves game, rushed to the scene and performed a traffic stop on the vehicle.
The child was taken to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta while adults were taken in for interviews by police.
During the police interview, Woods vehemently denied having a gun and insisted to detectives that she wasn’t lying. However, others in the group told police that the gun used in the shooting belonged to Woods and reported seeing her with it.
Officers found the gun after executing a search warrant on the car. The serial number on the weapon was traced to a gun-store burglary that happened several months earlier.
Security video from the hotel also showed Woods apparently ignoring the hurt child while she attempted to retrieve the gun from the room and hide it, prosecutors said. Woods had previously been convicted of selling cocaine in a school zone in Tennessee – which made it illegal for her to own a firearm. In recorded calls she made from jail, Woods acknowledged the gun was hers and criticized the others as “snitches.”
“The child was screaming, walking around after having been shot, looking for someone to help him. This Defendant was not that person,” Raynor said. “It is nothing short of a miracle that the child is alive, not to mention doing as well as he is.”
The victim, who is now 4 years old, is doing well but has suffered speech problems resulting from damage to his tongue and he has scars on both cheeks, the victim’s mother said. She added that her child has nightmares about the incident.
On Thursday, Woods pleaded guilty to cruelty to children in the second degree, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, theft by receiving stolen property, two counts of tampering with evidence, reckless conduct and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
After accepting the non-negotiated plea, Cobb Superior Court Judge Ann Harris sentenced Woods to 20 years, with 12 years to serve in prison and the rest on probation.
“One thing prison does is keep the community safe. Ma’am, you’re kind of the poster child for that,” Judge Harris said during her sentencing. “Your utter carelessness suggests you really need to be off the street.”