1. Archive

Father charged in killing by son

When burglars broke into Joseph Lello's home twice in a week, he pulled his 14-year-old son out of school, gave him a loaded assault rifle and told him to stand guard.

Four days later, young Jeffrey Lello accidentally shot a 15-year-old schoolmate to death.

That was in April. Now, Lello faces criminal charges that he carelessly allowed his son access to a dangerous weapon.

"This is a terrible, terrible tragedy for everyone concerned," defense attorney Jeffrey Weiner said. "But he is simply not guilty."

Weiner said the law was designed to prosecute careless parents but that Lello was far from careless. He taught his son how to use the Ruger Mini-14. Then he intentionally, not negligently, told him to use it.

"He told him, "Here, if you need it to save your life, use it, but only as a last resort," Weiner said.

Henry Kidson, whose son Laurence died in the shooting, said Lello should be held accountable. Kidson thinks Jeffrey was raised in a household where violence was accepted.

On the Lello bookshelves, police found a book describing how to kill people. In the bedroom, they found a gun silencer, which led to federal weapons charges against Lello.

"He caused this," Kidson said. "He exposed his son to callousness when it comes to human life."

The case began with the burglaries at the Lellos' home in southwest Dade County. Burglars tore the front door off its hinges and stole two TV sets, two record players, a VCR and a pile of pennies, police reports show.

Lello decided to fight back. The 37-year-old electrician told his son to skip his junior high classes until they could find a new place to live.

On April 30, Laurence Kidson stopped by to visit. Jeffrey showed him how he planned to shoot burglars.

"I'd go like this," Jeffrey said, according to police. He raised the gun, pointed it at his friend and pulled the trigger. The single bullet killed Laurence instantly.

Two weeks before, Laurence had been named the Dade County Public Schools' best student of the year.

Jeffrey, a ninth-grader with a B average, was charged with manslaughter. His father, who installs satellite TV dishes, was charged with culpable negligence.

If convicted, Lello faces up to five years in prison. Last November, a juvenile judge sentenced Jeffrey to 600 hours of community service.

"There are no words that I can think of to express how I feel about what happened," Jeffrey wrote in a letter sent to the Kidson family. "I hope you, with God's help, can forgive me."