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Hearing may decide if charge against Danville police chief will be dropped

SALEM - A key hearing will be held Monday to decide whether prosecutors can move forward with a charge brought against police Chief Wade Parsons after the death of a teenager inside Parsons' home.

A hearing on a motion to dismiss the case is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. in Salem Circuit Court.

The longtime chief is charged with negligent storage of firearms, a violation-level offense, after he allegedly left his loaded .40-caliber handgun under clothing in a closet inside his Danville home on March 11, 2013.

His girlfriend's son, 15-year-old Jacob Carver, found the gun and killed himself while he was alone. The state Medical Examiner's Office has ruled the death a suicide.

Parsons' lawyer, Alan Cronheim of Sisti Law Offices, wants a judge to dismiss the case because he maintains the law that was used to bring the charge refers only to a child younger than 16 accessing a firearm and using it in a "reckless" or "negligent" manner.

Cronheim argues that the law doesn't apply in the case of suicide and that Parsons can't be held liable for the death.

The gun was used "purposefully" in a suicide, he says, and its use was neither reckless nor negligent.

But county prosecutors disagree.

Assistant Rockingham County Attorney Terri Harrington has objected to the motion, arguing that the teenager's state of mind when he grabbed the loaded firearm from the closet doesn't matter. What matters, she wrote in her objection, is that a teenager under the age of 16 accessed an "improperly secured firearm."

She also argues that if the court finds that Jacob discharged the firearm "purposely" in a case of suicide, then he also acted "knowingly" and "recklessly."

Parsons remains on the job and is seeking reelection in March to the position he's held since 1995.

He has never faced opposition, but this year he is being challenged by Danville police Sgt. Ryan Furman.

Furman said he's running because he feels the police department has "management issues."

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