STRATFORD NJ Jan 22 2017 -- A borough police officer has been charged in connection with the New Year's Eve death of his 8-year-old daughter who succumbed to a fatal gunshot wound that was reportedly self-inflicted.
Kenneth Righter, 46, was charged Friday with three second-degree counts of endangering the welfare of a child for allegedly leaving a loaded firearm unsecured and accessible to his three minor children inside his home, according to the Camden County Prosecutor's Office.
Camden County Central Communications received a 911 call on the afternoon of Dec. 31, 2016 regarding an unresponsive 8-year-old child at Righter's home. Sailor Lane Righter's mother took her to Kennedy University Hospital, in Stratford, where the girl died as a result of a gunshot wound, authorities said Friday.
Righter was also charged with storage of firearms if minors may have access, which is a disorderly person’s offense. The children involved were ages 8, 14 and 17, per the prosecutor's office.
An investigation conducted by the Camden County Prosecutor's Office allegedly found that Righter kept his personal .357-caliber revolver, "loaded and unsecured, on a shelf, which was within the reach of the minor children."
Righter has been suspended without pay from the Startford Police Department, where he held the rank of patrolman. On a memorial Facebook page, community members mourned the loss on Jan. 15 -- what would have been the girl's ninth birthday -- with a balloon release.
Citing the ongoing investigation, a prosecutor's office spokesman declined to comment Friday on who fired the fatal shot. Authorities previously said that only family members were home at the time of the incident, ruling out any possible criminal act.
According to New Jersey 101.5, the girl's mother reportedly said in a Facebook post that Sailor had become "severely depressed" and that her death was a suicide. The girl's obituary requested donations be made to the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide.
"Sailor was a beautiful little girl with an infectious smile. She adored cheerleading and playing softball. She will be forever missed by her family," the obituary reads.