RACINE — One year and one day after the death of his son, a Racine County man, dressed in an orange jail jumpsuit, tearfully addressed the court.
“It’s been tough for me, waking up, talking to my son, and then to realize that he’s not even alive, all because I chose to go get drunk,” said 31-year-old Jeffrey L. Pitt Jr. “I regret everything.”
Pitt was sentenced Friday to 28 years in prison after he admitted to getting drunk and falling asleep with a gun in his waistband while caring for his two toddler sons. He awoke on July 12, 2017, to find that his 3-year-old son had accidentally shot and killed himself.
“I apologize to my family for my careless behavior,” Pitt said. “I apologize to my son. I have got to live with this until I am called home, no matter what.”
On May 11, Pitt pleaded guilty to felony counts of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and first-degree reckless homicide. A felony charge of first-degree recklessly endangering safety was dismissed, but was considered for sentencing purposes.
On Friday, Racine County Circuit Court Judge Faye Flancher sentenced Pitt to 35 years, split between 25 years of incarceration and 10 years of extended supervision, for the first-degree reckless homicide charge, and six years, split between three years of incarceration and three years of extended supervision. The charges will run consecutive to one other.
Friends and family of Pitt cried out in the courtroom — some in anger, some in sadness — as the sentence was handed down.
“It always breaks my heart when the community that I am protecting is a person’s own family,” Flancher said. “Mr. Pitt, I wish you and your family the best of luck in the future.
“Your behavior in this case was indeed not only criminal, but reckless,” Flancher told Pitt. “As a convicted felon, you knew that you could not be in possession of a firearm. Not only were you in possession of a firearm, it was loaded and in the waistband of your pants when you passed out drunk with your two most precious possessions right next to you. This is the worst-case- possible scenario.”
Assistant Racine County District Attorney Jennifer Tanck-Adams asked the judge to consider a sentence of 25 to 30 years of incarceration, followed by an “unspecified term” of extended supervision for the charges.
Tanck-Adams noted Pitt’s ongoing alcohol and substance abuse issues, record of disorderly conduct charges and lack of success when given probation sentences as reasons for the lengthy sentence.
“This is obviously a very tragic situation,” Tanck-Adams said. “As was noted by the presentence investigation writer, Mr. Pitt has, by his actions caused his other child to now not only grow up without Mr. Pitt, his father being there, but also without his brother not being there.”
Pitt’s attorney, Patrick Flanagan, asked Flancher to consider a 20-year sentence, split between 10 years of incarceration and 10 years of extended supervision, on the first-degree reckless homicide charge, and six years, split between three years’ incarceration and three years extended supervision, on the possession of firearm by a felony charge.
“We are asking the court to show mercy because no one on this earth hurts more than he does for what happened,” Flanagan said.
The back story
On July 12, 2017, police found 3-year-old Jere’Miah Pitt dead in the upper unit of a home in the 1800 block of Howe Street.
Pitt told police he took five shots of alcohol before coming home on the night of July 11, according to the criminal complaint. When he got home at about 7 p.m., he took Jere’Miah into the living room and put on a movie, he said. He then passed out with the toddler nearby and his other son lying on his chest.
The next morning, Pitt found the child dead. Police found Jere’Miah on the floor with a single gunshot wound to the chest and a spent .40-caliber shell casing next to his body.
After initially denying it, Pitt eventually admitted to falling asleep with a loaded .40-caliber gun in his waistband. He said he did not hear any sounds and didn’t feel anyone remove the firearm from his waistband.
Finding Jere’Miah dead and the gun missing the next morning, Pitt learned that Laquan L. Russell had taken the gun from the floor during the night.
After Russell returned the gun, Pitt determined one of the rounds was missing, according to the complaint. Pitt then reportedly asked Russell to dispose of the gun and take his other child from the home.
Russell initially denied any knowledge of a gun, but eventually told investigators he spotted the gun lying on the floor on the night of July 11-12 and brought it downstairs, the complaint states. The next morning, when Pitt told him Jere’Miah was dead and asked where the gun was, Russell handed the gun to Pitt, police said.
Russell later told police he took the gun from Pitt to dispose of it along the alley behind the house and led officers to its location. An officer who collected the gun found the chamber empty and the magazine one round short of fully loaded.
Russell was charged with harboring a felon by falsifying information and given a probation sentence.