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Parents of Phoenix toddler shot to death at home plead not guilty

Wendy Lavarnia, left, and Kansas Lavarnia (Maricopa County Sheriff's Office Photos)

PHOENIX — The parents of a child who was shot and killed in their Phoenix home pleaded not guilty to murder charges Thursday.

Wendy and Kansas Lavarnia entered their pleas in Maricopa County Superior Court. The couple was charged in the March 20 death of their 9-year-old son, Landen.

The couple also was charged with child abuse and hindering prosecution. Wendy Lavarnia, 28, had initially told investigators that a 2-year-old sibling had gotten hold of a gun left on a bed and accidentally shot his brother.

The older boy was on life support for two days.

Authorities found discrepancies between the mother’s account and when Kansas Lavarnia showed up at the home near 35th Avenue and Cactus Road with a gunshot wound to his upper arm. He wouldn’t explain how he got the injuries.

Kansas Lavarnia, 31, cannot have a gun because of three convictions from 2009. He was in prison for three years.

The couple’s other children were placed in foster care. They had been removed from the home in August 2014 and November 2015.

The family was required to complete a program and the Department of Child Services closed the case last June.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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