Father of 8-year-old girl who shot and killed toddler sentenced to four years in prison 


A man has been sentenced to a little more than four years in prison for leaving a rifle in his 8-year-old daughter's bedroom at their Puyallup-area home before the girl accidentally shot and killed a toddler thinking the firearm was a BB gun.

Brian D. Widland, 37, pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter last month in Pierce County Superior Court for his actions in the Dec. 20, 2021 death of his nephew, 2-year-old Hudson Carlisle.

Widland has four prior felony convictions and was prohibited from owning firearms. According to court records, his daughter told investigators Widland had lots of guns around their house, big and small. Some fired BBs, and some fired bullets.

It was one of the firearms, a .22-caliber rifle left leaning against a corner of the girl's room, according to charging documents, that Widland's daughter picked up during a game of "wolves." She fired it, striking her cousin Hudson in the head. She later told authorities she thought the gun just "stings you" and that her father told her it was "all his fault" because he put the gun in her room.

Hudson was brought by ambulance to Mary Bridge Children's Hospital, where he was declared dead.

Superior Court Judge Pro Tempore Elizabeth P. Martin sentenced Widland on June 14, giving him a mid-range sentence of 53-and-half months in prison. Widland has already served about 22 months. He has remained in custody at the Pierce County Jail on $1 million bail since he was arrested in August 2022 on a bench warrant.

Prosecutors and the defendant's attorney agreed to recommend that length of punishment as part of a plea agreement, court records show. The standard sentencing range for defendants prosecuted in similar cases is 46 to 61 months.

Included in Widland's plea agreement was a handwritten note from the defendant in which he disputed some of prosecutors' claims about steps he allegedly took to throw off law enforcement.

Surveillance video allegedly showed Widland and other adults removing from the residence the .22-caliber rifle used in the shooting, and the defendant was accused of giving a 911 operator the wrong address. Court records also noted that the victim's stepfather allegedly told detectives there was a plan to make up a story that the victim had been killed in a drive-by shooting. Widland's note stated that he did none of those things.

Widland agreed to plead guilty to manslaughter, and prosecutors agreed to dismiss all other charges. Those were two counts of first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm, reckless endangerment and first-degree community endangerment, which accused Widland of unlawfully storing firearms in such a way that a minor could access them.

When Pierce County Sheriff's Department deputies served a search warrant at Widland's single-story home near Milwaukee Avenue East and 58th Street Court East, they found a BB gun lying on a cabinet in the master bedroom. Also found were shotgun shells, 9 mm ammunition and a BB gun rifle.

Investigators noted in court records that every room of the residence was cluttered, with only small pathways to get around. In the kitchen they found BB holes in the cabinets with red targets drawn around them.

Prosecutors wrote in court filings that resolving the case through a guilty plea avoided the possibility that Widland's daughter would have to be placed in the custody of an agent of the state to secure her testimony at trial.

Deputy prosecuting attorney Thomas Howe wrote that prosecutors were prepared to serve the girl's mother with a material witness warrant, which would have "almost certainly" resulted in the girl being placed in the care of the state.


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