A Las Vegas judge sentenced a woman to probation on Wednesday for fatally shooting her 3-year-old son in December 2020.
Jasmin Vargas pleaded guilty in June to child abuse, neglect or endangerment resulting in substantial bodily harm in the death of her son, John Jaffey. Vargas had told police that she did not know her Taurus 9 mm semi-automatic handgun was loaded when she fired it in the parking lot of an east valley apartment complex on Dec. 16, 2020.
Vargas was with another woman and wanted to show her that the gun was not loaded. She removed the safety, pointed the gun in front of her and pulled the trigger, her defense attorney, Augustus Claus, said during her sentencing hearing.
John, who had ran in front of his mother, was shot in the head, Claus said.
“She did something foolish. She did something negligent,” Claus told District Judge Monica Trujillo. “And your honor, she’s going to have to live with that for the rest of her life. There’s no sentence you can give to her that’s going to be worse than the pain that she is going to feel.”
Chief Deputy District Attorney Michelle Jobe told the judge that the day before John was shot, Vargas took her gun into the desert, knew that six bullets were loaded into it, and fired the gun two to three times.
“The defendant claims to have not known there were still bullets in the firearm, which makes absolutely zero sense to me,” Jobe said.
According to her arrest report, Vargas told police she had recently purchased a gun because she is small in stature and feared for her safety.
On Wednesday, Jobe asked for a sentence of between five and 15 years in prison due to what she called the defendant’s “egregious and reckless behavior.”
Trujillo instead ordered Vargas to spend five years on probation. Vargas also was ordered to receive a mental health evaluation, obtain her GED diploma or finish adult education classes, and maintain employment. She will not be allowed to consume drugs or alcohol while on probation, cannot own a weapon and must pay $2,933 in restitution.
When deciding Vargas’ sentence, Trujillo said she considered her lack of criminal history, the fact that she has been out of custody since May 2021 while keeping a job, and the fact that an evaluation determined that she has a “lower than average intellectual disability.”
“Obviously it’s not lost on the court that a life is lost, but I am considering the fact that it was her son’s life,” the judge said.
Vargas, who cried throughout the hearing, sobbed while reading a statement and asking for forgiveness before she was sentenced.
“It has been hard for me because I lost my own son,” she said. “I am fighting every day to get through this and make my life better.”
The Clark County Department of Family Services had received three claims of neglect since 2014 against John’s family, records show. An allegation from 2014 was found substantiated, and the family was placed under “formal supervision.”
Two other allegations made after John’s birth were found unsubstantiated, records show.
John’s paternal family has described him as an energetic and happy boy. His father, Michael Jaffey, told the judge on Wednesday that his son was a “bundle of joy” who loved playing video games and talking on the phone with his grandmother.
Michael Jaffey, who appeared in court through a video call, said he is now left to stare at pictures of his son and the urn that holds his ashes.
“There’s nothing excusable about what was done, in my opinion,” he said.