The man accused of fatally shooting his girlfriend’s toddler was not supposed to have a gun.
Ronnie William Howard sniffled back tears Friday afternoon after he entered Bibb County Magistrate Court.
The crying intensified when the judge told him a reckless conduct charge from the night before had been upgraded to second degree murder.
“Really? Oh, God,” he cried, pulling his hands to his face. “But it was an accident.”
Magistrate Barbara Harris was not there to hear evidence.
“I can understand that sir,” Harris said. “But you just save that for a later date.”
Howard will be held without bond until the case moves to Bibb County Superior Court.
The 36-year-old is no stranger to the jail.
“He’s been in our facility 26 times since ‘97,” said Lt. Randy Gonzalez, a public information officer for the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office.
In September, Howard was driving with a suspended license when he was arrested as a habitual violator on traffic offenses, according to Bibb court records that show three driving convictions in less than five years.
A deputy stopped his 2006 tan Ford Focus at Fulton Mill Road and Eisenhower Parkway for windshield and brake- and tail-light issues.
Howard was shuffling something in the front seat, the report stated.
He had a 9mm handgun, a loaded magazine and marijuana in the car, records show. All of it was seized as evidence.
A 9-month-old child was properly strapped into a car seat in the front passenger seat. Howard’s girlfriend came to pick up the baby, the report stated. It was unclear Friday whether the baby was the same child who was killed.
That case is still pending, and Howard was prohibited from having a firearm or dangerous weapon as a condition of his $3,800 bond signed last fall by Harris.
On Friday, Howard continued to wipe tears as he signed a waiver stating he understood the new charges, which include cruelty to children in the second degree.
The arrest warrant accuses Howard of being negligent and “acting careless with a 9mm handgun” resulting in the death of 17-month-old Victor Carroll.
According to the report, Howard said the gun jammed as he was cleaning it in the living room of the couple’s mobile home at Lot 12 at 6381 Thomaston Road.
He stripped the magazine from the gun and racked the slide to release the bullet stuck in the chamber. The gun fired after Howard put the magazine back in, hitting Victor in the face while the boy was near the couch.
The child’s mother, Brooke Carroll, also told investigators the gun discharged accidentally shortly after 3 p.m. Thursday.
The couple rushed the boy to Medical Center, Navicent Health, where he was later pronounced dead.
Bibb County Coroner Leon Jones said the child never had a chance.
“The bullet went under the right eye and exited in the back,” said Jones. “Why in the world would you be cleaning a gun with a child in the house?”
Telegraph writer Amy Leigh Womack contributed to this report.