Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, October 24, 1998

Boy facing a spanking kills himself, By Mark Waller and Jay Meisel

MORRILTON -- Counselors visited with students at a Morrilton elementary school Friday after the death of a third-grader who police say shot himself while his mother went to get a switch to punish him for receiving a poor report card.

Christopher Lamar Parks, 8, of Morrilton died Thursday night at Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock. Police said he shot himself in the head about 4:30 p.m. Wednesday with a .22-caliber handgun that was hanging on a wall above a dresser in a bedroom. Sgt. Lanny Wortman of the Morrilton Police Department said Friday that Christopher's mother, Lee Arthur Parks, 31, had asked Christopher if he had a report card from school.

He said he didn't get one. But three other children in the house, a sister, brother and friend of Christopher's, had report cards, said Wortman, one of the first officers to respond to the shooting. Parks called the boy's teacher, who told her that Christopher did receive a card and that he had some bad grades, the officer said. She confronted her son with that information and told him not to lie to her, Wortman said.

She went out into the yard to get a switch, he said. Christopher left the three other children in the living room and went into the bedroom.

He apparently climbed onto a dresser, knocking over a picture and wrinkling a scarf. From the dresser, he could reach the gun, Wortman said. The children in the living room, ages 9, 10 and 11, heard a single shot from the bedroom, police were told.

Parks, who was outside, heard the shot but told police she thought one of the children had dropped something.

She went back inside the house where the children, who had found Christopher's body, told her he had shot himself. When Wortman found the boy on a bedroom floor with a gunshot wound in the right side of his head, the gun was on the floor 8-10 feet away. "I'm having a hard time comprehending why an 8-year-old would even think about something like that," Wortman said. "It really bothers me." The family lived in a sparsely populated section on Burrow Street, just east of Arkansas 9.

Friday, it appeared that several relatives or friends were visiting the family at their modest blue house. No one was home at the two other houses on that stretch of Burrow Street.

Wortman said police are investigating Christopher's family life. But, he said, no foul play is suspected.

A set of Christopher's grandparents also live in the house. Christopher's grandmother was home when he shot himself, Wortman said.

Christopher attended North Side Elementary School. Counselors were available to meet with the school's 400 students as they arrived for classes Thursday and again Friday, said Brian Bailey, assistant superintendent of the South Conway County School District.

District Superintendent Raymond Chambers could not be reached for comment Friday. Staff members at the school said they were told to refer any media inquiries to administrators.

"I remember when I was 8," Bailey said. "I don't know of anything that would make me think of this."

Information for this article was contributed by The Associated Press.

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