PALM COAST, Fla. - 22-year-old C.J. Nelson has been charged with manslaughter in the shooting death of his 18-month-old niece, Ja'Liyah Allen in September. Flagler Sheriff Rick Staly made the announcement at a press conference on Thursday, accompanied by State Attorney R.J. Larizza and Major Crimes Detective Kathryn Gordon.
According to a summary of the investigation by Staly, Allen's mother was preparing a shower in their R Section rental home, but stepped out of the bathroom to let the water cool down. While she waited, she's said to have taken a moment to play with her infant daughter. In a separate, Staly said Nelson was attempting to unjam a handgun. A shot was fired in the process, fatally striking Allen in the head. According to Detective Gordon, Nelson has maintained that he wasn't even in the house when the incident happened.
Per statements made by Staly and Gordon on Thursday, the Flagler County Sheriff's Office has evidence that Nelson was not only in the home, but is responsible for his niece's killing. They said they'd found photos on social media of Nelson holding the same gun. The investigation, which started in September, was apparently slowed by alleged attempts by Nelson's family to hide evidence, along with conflicting reports from different individuals in the home.
Nelson was arrested in November 2022 for marijuana possession and a gun charge, before being released on parole. Under his parole, he should've been barred from owning a firearm. Nevertheless, Gordon confirmed the gun used in the killing was his.
Staly also claimed Nelson had THC in his system at the time of the shooting, and was willing to link the incident to Nelson's impairedness. He did not have an exact amount of THC in Nelson's system readily available, and he said no other substances, legal or otherwise, came up in tests.
Nelson has been in custody since the time of the incident; deputies arrested him then on a violation of parole charge with the expectation they'd charge him in the killing at a later date. He's been held at the county jail since then, and was re-arrested by Gordon on Wednesday for his new manslaughter charge. According to Staly, further charges may be levied against the family members who allegedly hid evidence and gave conflicting reports.