On a typical Monday, 10-year-old Gayloyd Roberts and his siblings would have been at their Kershaw County schools.
But an expected winter storm that never hit the Midlands left thousands of students — including the Roberts children — home alone.
For Gayloyd, it would be his last winter break.
The Midway Elementary third-grader died Monday after his 13-year-old brother shot him in the face with a .22-caliber rifle during an argument at their home in the rural community of Cassatt, about 12 miles northeast of Camden, Kershaw County Sheriff’s deputies said.
The 13-year-old, whom authorities aren’t identifying because he is a juvenile, was charged with murder, deputies said.
Gayloyd’s father, Gary Travis Roberts, 44, was charged with unlawful neglect of a child for having an unsecured, loaded gun in the Red Hill Circle mobile home, deputies said.
Neither the father nor mother, identified by authorities as Teresa Self, was home at the time, deputies said. Self has not been charged.
Gary Roberts told investigators he kept the rifle against a wall in the master bedroom and had recently used it to shoot at dogs that had been bothering his horse, Sheriff’s Capt. David Thomley told The State.
“If the father had taken the responsibility to unload this firearm and secure it, this potentially would have never happened,” Thomley said.
Gayloyd’s 15-year-old sister heard him and her 13-year-old brother arguing in the master bedroom and told them to stop, Thomley said. When she walked out of the room, she heard a gunshot, he said.
Thomley described the argument as “trivial,” noting the boys reportedly were squabbling over where they would sit to watch a movie in the bedroom.
Gayloyd was shot once in the face, Thomley said, adding another round was found in the rifle’s chamber.
Tommy Key, 18, who identified himself as Self’s son but said he doesn’t live in the home, didn’t want to talk about the shooting when interviewed Tuesday afternoon outside the home.
“The way I see it, it isn’t anybody’s business but our own.”
The home — part of which was covered with tar paper — sits along a dirt road with other mobile homes nearby. A horse stood in an enclosed yard, which was filled with old metal parts and wood.
The cluster of homes is located about a mile from the crossroads of Cassatt, marked by a post office, country store and restaurant.
“We’ve had fires around here, but never anything like this,” Geneva Paul, 68, a cook at the Hard Times Cafe, said Tuesday.
Deputies were called to Gayloyd’s home at 12:26 p.m. Monday, and the boy was flown to Columbia, Thomley said. He was pronounced dead at Palmetto Health Richland at 1:59 p.m. Monday, said Kershaw County Chief Deputy Coroner Doris McGougan.
Deputies took the 15-year-old, her 8-year-old brother and her 6-year-old sister into emergency protective custody Tuesday afternoon, Thomley said.
The 6-year-old wasn’t home at the time of the shooting, Thomley said, though he didn’t know where she was.
“The living conditions are deplorable out there, and there are other weapons in the house,” Thomley said.
Virginia Williamson, chief lawyer for the state Department of Social Services, said Tuesday her agency had “involvement” with the family that “ended in 2007,” though she declined to discuss specifics. A probable cause hearing on the removal of the children is scheduled for Thursday in Family Court in Kershaw County.
The 13-year-old, who is being held in a state juvenile facility in Columbia, was scheduled to have a hearing today on the murder charge in Family Court in Kershaw County. The 5th Circuit solicitor’s office had not decided Tuesday whether to seek to try to the boy as an adult; that decision ultimately will be left to a family court judge.
If convicted of murder as a juvenile, the boy could be held in a juvenile prison until he turns 21; if convicted as an adult, he would face a maximum life sentence.
Gary Roberts was scheduled to have a bail hearing this morning on his charge.
State Law Enforcement Division records show he was convicted in 1993 of involuntary manslaughter in Kershaw County and was sentenced to three years’ probation. In 2000, he was convicted of fraudulent check charges in Lancaster County, records show.
In 2001, Roberts was arrested in Kershaw County in separate incidents on charges of presenting a firearm and disturbing schools, though the charges were later dismissed, records show.
Extra counselors were on hand Tuesday at Midway Elementary School, said Kershaw County schools spokeswoman Mary Anne Byrd. Gayloyd’s 6-year-old sister is a first-grader there, and his 8-year-old brother is a second-grader, she said.
Their 13-year-old brother is in the eighth grade at North Central Middle School, while the 15-year-old is a ninth grader at North Central High School, Byrd said, adding an extra psychologist was assigned to the middle school.
Byrd said the district superintendent decided to cancel Monday’s classes about 5 p.m. Sunday after consulting with law enforcement and emergency preparedness officials about an approaching winter storm. But the storm bypassed the county.
“We didn’t get what was forecasted,” she said.
Reach Brundrett at (803) 771-8484. Reach Monk at (803) 771-8344.