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Father of Toms River Boy, 4, Who Shot 6-Year-Old Friend Pleads Not Guilty

Anthony Senatore, 34, (sitting) appeared before Superior Court Judge Wendel E. Daniels to face five charges of child endangerment in connection with the killing of Brandon Holt.
Anthony Senatore, 34, (sitting) appeared before Superior Court Judge Wendel E. Daniels to face five charges of child endangerment in connection with the killing of Brandon Holt.

By Denise Di Stephan

The father of a 4-year-old boy who fatally shot his 6-year-old Toms River neighbor earlier this year pleaded not guilty in Superior Court on Monday on child-endangerment charges.

Anthony Senatore, 34, appeared before Superior Court Judge Wendel E. Daniels to face five charges of child endangerment in connection with Senatore's son killing Brandon Holt.

Senatore was indicted on five counts of second-degree endangering the welfare of children and one count of third-degree endangering the welfare of a child, the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office said.

The prosecutor's office offered a plea deal to Senatore which, so far, he is not accepting, according to Robert A. Ebberup, an attorney based in Toms River who is representing Senatore.

The plea deal would mean seven years in jail in return for pleading guilty to two child endangerment counts, according to Daniels (and confirmed by Diane Ruberton, first assistant Atlantic County Prosecutor, who was in court on Monday).

Ebberup told reporters in the hallway after the brief arraignment Monday morning that he is not accepting the plea deal and won't even consider it until he has more time to review case material.

Ebberup also told reporters in the hall that his client is extremely upset about the death of Brandon Holt.

"My client is deeply horrified over what took place and feels awful about it," Ebberup said. "His feelings go out to the family. Brandon Holt was a wonderful, wonderful little boy. We just hope he's in Heaven right now. We're sure he is."

Ebberup also told reporters, "This is a civil case. This doesn't belong in a criminal courtroom."

Ebberup told Daniels during the arraignment that he only received the discovery material from the prosecutor's office "less than 15 days ago" and has not had adequate time to review all of it. "Discovery" is evidence in the case that, by law, has to be shared with both sides before a trial begins.

However, Ebberup said that based on his review so far, he is asking the prosecutor's office to provide him with photos, cell phone records, shot gun shells and "copies of search warrant returns that were not fully executed." 

Ebberup said that after he has a chance to more thoroughly review all discovery material, he may have additional requests for more information.

Daniels set a pre-trial status conference for 10 a.m. Jan. 27. At that time, the judge noted, Ebberup will have an opportunity to request any additional information and to file motions if he deems that necessary.

Ruberton told Daniels that when she receives from Ebberup a complete list of the requested material, she expects to begin to provide it to him. John Flammer, an assistant Atlantic County prosecutor, is working with Ruberton representing the state.

On April 8, Senatore’s 4-year-old son gained access to what authorities describe as an unsecured .22 caliber rifle in Senatore’s bedroom and fired a single shot, which struck 6-year-old neighbor, Brandon Holt, in the head. 

Holt was transported to the Jersey Shore University Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead the next day.

Due to familial conflicts, the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office took over the case from Ocean County authorities.

Senatore was charged in the case on May 13.

Authorities charged Senatore with one count of second-degree endangering the welfare of children for each of the five firearms found that investigators say were accessible to his own children, for whom he had a legal duty of care.

proud November 18, 2013 at 07:13 PM
What does being a former police officer have to do with legal and moral duty?
justamom November 18, 2013 at 07:27 PM
hmm You're absolutely right. I think I just meant he, of all people, perhaps should have known better being as he was a police officer, IE: sees things most of us do not. however, you are correct, ANYONE who owns a weapon has a legal and moral duty to make sure it's secure. I stand corrected.
dainty November 18, 2013 at 07:51 PM
Putting myself in his shoes? ID NEVER HAVE GUNS ACCESSIBLE TO ANYONE! Kids play with toy guns all the time. How the heck would a 4 yo know real or toy? IT was the parents responsibility to LOCK up ALL those guns. There were more than one! A 6 yo child lost his life. Mom or Dad should have safeguarded them. I feel terrible for all as I KNOW this was not MEANT to happen. Its a terrible accident. BUT if we let him off? Why would anyone secure their guns? A Year I say and let that remind folks to secure your guns AND BULLETS.
Av November 18, 2013 at 08:35 PM
Kids and guns don't mix as a cop he should get double time. What kinda person sleeps at night defending a guy like that. A no morals money hungry lawyer. What a POS
Gino De Lucia November 18, 2013 at 08:39 PM
We here on Patch can debate this til kingdom come, but the bottom line is this: As a former police officer, Mr Senatore should have know better than to leave loaded firearms lying unsecured around the house; especially knowing that his children could have easy access to them. Is Mr Senatore deeply saddened over what happened? Of course he is; but that however, doesn't make what happened right! There's no "kissing the boo boo to make it go away" in this case, and just like you & me, Senatore needs to be held accountable for his actions and for his negligence in this matter~ end of story!!
proud November 18, 2013 at 08:46 PM
@Gino De Lucifer, what do you think about Mrs Senatore? Should she be held accountable for her actions--or,inactions as it were?
Av November 18, 2013 at 09:40 PM
Throw away the key
Gino De Lucia November 19, 2013 at 12:20 AM
Hey prude.... if you want to ask me a question about Mrs. Senatore, then you'll have to address me by my correct name!
Doug Bennett November 19, 2013 at 08:49 AM
This bum should be locked up and for a lot more than seven years. 7 times 70 would be more like it. Instead some of you want to let him walk so he can keep a few more guns loaded and ready to fire. Thank goodness Atlantic County is handling this. If it was up to the clowns in the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office, Senatore would already be celebrating with his buds from the OC Prosecutor's Office...they all like their guns so much. What chance would the Holts or anyone have for justice when those clowns can bring a man to court 13 times and then drop the charges like they did with the homeless guy in Lakewood. I wonder what that nonsense cost us? You have to wonder how they loaded up the grand jury on that one: http://www.app.com/article/20131112/NJNEWS/311120112/Charges-dropped-against-Tent-City-founder
1stcav November 19, 2013 at 09:03 AM
Tis is tragic for both families, one more that the other. Shoulda, coulda , woulda , but were way past that , his fate now lies in the hands of the court system. Charges that can put him behind bars for a long time and will not bring this little boy back , but it WILL send a message to someone to secure weapons..now .Sad no matter what the outcome , two families torn apart...WWJD....in pray for both families..in Jesus' name Amen..
Dame Bridgid November 19, 2013 at 11:15 AM
Jailing this man could destroy the 4 year old child as he tries to recover from shooting his friend. Seeing his son's trauma, & being required to take him for treatment, will actually teach his father more penitence & regret than jail ever could. (1) Place him on probation. (2) have him perform SIX years of community service. (One year for each year of that precious child's life). (3) fine him heavily. (4) REMOVE his weapons license permanently. Then; let the civil court complete the justice. Sadly; nothing can restore what has been already lost, & I offer my gravest sympathy to his grieving family. However; let us not lose sight of the needs of that poor child who now needs to heal...his life is still at risk.
Rem November 19, 2013 at 11:24 AM
Thats only for one count the other counts are for endangering his own kids. At the age four i am not really sure he realizes what really happened. I really wold like to know haw he still has his kids and how come the wife is not being charged. Or is it only in dog cruelty cases.
TomsRiverMom November 19, 2013 at 03:06 PM
Welcome to the new members who are unable to use proper grammar or spell. But that's neither here nor there. Comparing his wrecklessness to a car accident is silly, however, you can be arrested for Vehicular Manslaughter for negligence, not just driving under the influence. So let's compare it to something more along the same lines.... If I leave a bag of cocaine out on my table, and my child's friend OD's on it, and when the police come and they find multiple drugs laying out where my children can access them, should I be jailed? Obviously, the drugs are illegal, but so is having guns laying around unsecured in the proximity of children. What should be the consequence of that? Should I just say, oh it was a tragic accident and I didn't mean for anyone to get hurt?
proud November 19, 2013 at 03:35 PM
@Mom, that is an interesting juxtaposition, with an exception. Cocaine is illegal, whereas guns are necessarily so. Lets play off of your kitchen table analogy. Say you left a large kitchen knife on the table or a counter as you were just doing food preparation, and your child decided he wanted to play Cowboys and Indians, and his playmate was injured (or, worse) in this game. Would you say, oh it was just a game and I didn't mean for anyone to get hurt? But, they did get hurt, and I suppose an argument could be made that you were "reckless" for leaving the knife in the proximity of young children. The argument would lend itself to the premise that you endangered your child by leaving the knife in the proximity of the child that you have a duty of care for (second degree) and enabled your child through reckless abandon to endanger the life of the friend that you do not have a duty of care for (third degree). Of course you didn't mean for this to happen, but it did. Now, I have to ask, how many reading this have a block of very dangerous knives always sitting on their counters and do you put them away when children are in your presence? I am not condemning anyone with example. I am just trying to point out that the law is the law, and whether or not this man goes to prison hinges on whether he was reckless or not. Another interesting question is was he reckless seven times at once?
TomsRiverMom November 19, 2013 at 03:50 PM
- However there is not a specific law pertaining to knives. This is why I used cocaine as an example. Yes, it's illegal, JUST like leaving multiple loaded guns laying around when children are present. I'm not a gun person, however, I respect the right of others to own them. That being said, if a precedent isn't set in punishing this crime, will anyone really learn a lesson? Senatore will learn that he is above the law, other irresponsible gun owners won't think twice. As the law states - New Jersey Revised Statutes § 2C:58-15a states that “[a] person who knows or reasonably should know that a minor [under 16 years of age] is likely to gain access to a loaded firearm at a premises under the person’s control” is criminally liable for a misdemeanor if a minor gains access to a firearm, unless the person: Stores the firearm in a securely locked box or container; Stores the firearm in a location which a reasonable person would believe to be secure; or Secures the firearm with a trigger lock. Rarely are these people charges, which is why it keeps happening over, and over and over again. It was a tragic accident, and it was an accident on the part of the child, not of the man who was negligent. At some point in this country, people have to stop passing the buck and take responsibility.
TR November 19, 2013 at 05:08 PM
He is at least guilty of negligence...........That can't be argued by anyone on this site can it? Now his negligence led to the death of his neighbors kid correct? Don't see how that can be argued either. So negligence that leads to an innocent child's death is only worth 7 years? Of which he will probably serve 2-3? Then what? He goes back to his happy life collecting a pension from the state? Meanwhile the Holts live another 40-50-60 years in absolute misery? How is that justice? Please help me understand! What the scumbags' son did was an accident! What the perp did was a crime!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Av November 19, 2013 at 05:22 PM
Lock him and his POS lawyer, for at least 25 yrs. a child was lost and he thinks he should walk, he wants us to feel bad for him? They love locked up policeman in prison
J November 19, 2013 at 05:48 PM
He did nothing wrong?! He left a LOADED gun, where a 4yr old could access it. The 4yr okd then went and shot a 6yr old. It should have never HAPPENED! So yes he is both responsible for and guilty of the fate of that 6yr old.
proud November 19, 2013 at 06:00 PM
@Mom, I'm not saying that I disagree with you regarding accountability. The statute which you refer to is a disorderly persons charge. I have not read the indictment, but from what I have read, the firearms that resulted in four of the five second degree charges were not loaded. If you know differently, please correct me, but I believe your statement regarding "multiple loaded guns" is incorrect. The questions that I was posing was: did Mr Senatore act recklessly, thus endangering his children and the neighbor boy (God rest his soul) and if so, why would Mrs. Senatore not also be accountable for same? Further, if you agree that there was recklessness ( which apparently you do) than wouldn't that be true also in the knife scenario? As I alluded, this scenario is ever present everywhere. While there may be no law specifically relating to owning a knife, there very well may be in extenuating circumstances. To your cocaine example, let me ask you this: if you left prescription pain medication that you legally possessed and your child's friend got into them and overdosed, have you recklessly endangered the welfare of this child and your own for that matter?
proud November 19, 2013 at 06:08 PM
@TR, Mr Senatore collects a pension from the State? Please explain.
thomas fatula November 19, 2013 at 07:00 PM
Ima say this and im done with this petty site where people take shit personally toms river mom. The man does not deserve jail. What if in the 30 seconds u werent watching the kids they got to the knives in the kitchen and there was a fatal accident. Do u deserve jail? U might but not me. What if one of them got to ur prescription meds cause i no u take them. What if the neighbors kid od. U deserve jail. Its an accident. U say its silly to compare a car accident. What exactly is silly about the child that dies in the car accident? Will him going to jail bring the boy back? No. Will it give the holts closure? No. They may think right now it will but once hes in jail and they still feel grief and loss. The only thing we do no for a fact is putting that dude in jail will only fuck his sons head up possibly destroying him before he has a chance to grow. We no for a fact it will cause his family to suffer. Obviously they cant be bad parents cause dyfuss would have removed those kids if they were. Im not saying he walks. I think a suspended sentence with fines up the ass and probation and no guns for life is enough. And u say poor holts. My prayers go out to them but who files a civil suit less then two weeks after there son passes? U should all practice forgiveness cause god forbid something similar happens to any of u u will be looking for people like me who f eel an accident no matter how severe should be shown a dagree of mercy and forgiveness. And calling a spade a spade igot about 20 friends who own shotguns for hunting and keep them in there closets not saying thats the best place but its just a reality due to nj state gun laws. U dont think that man is going through hell? He gets to wake up every day and hold the regret
Av November 19, 2013 at 07:03 PM
Thomas sounds like he's your friend
thomas fatula November 19, 2013 at 07:04 PM
Of knowing a little more carefullness could had prevented this whole thing. U think he should go to jail. Thats for criminals and from what i read he aint no criminal. Its a terrible situation but one that him going to jail is gona help absolutely no one. Down to the taxpayer that pays to house him in jail. No one benefits him going to jail.
Rem November 19, 2013 at 07:38 PM
Hey Thomas he wakes up everyday with and holds the guilt but the other family wakes up and cant hold their son.
Av November 19, 2013 at 08:12 PM
Defiantly jail!! Full sentence, enough with wah wah let's feel sorry for him? Cost of his jail time ? Money well spent. The money is wasted on a trial. Try using real English tommy boy
thomas fatula November 19, 2013 at 08:29 PM
U should try to spell correctly
Av November 19, 2013 at 08:52 PM
Me ? You is not spelled (U) and the word ain't isn't in the English language. What did you do the six year plan for high school? A** Clown
proud November 19, 2013 at 09:57 PM
Riggers time
Jersey_mom November 19, 2013 at 10:37 PM
Thomas Fatula - would you be thinking this way if it were your child/grandson/nephew? Anthony is going to suffer the rest of his life along with his family. Unless his children change their last name they'll never have a normal life.
pat November 21, 2013 at 12:04 AM
Once a loser always a loser. Can't say anymore than that

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