Shot Tot Removed from Home

Taken to ER 15 Hours Later; Father, Grandmother Charged

Michael Gerald Tart

Michael Gerald Tart

Wendy Dianne Payne

Wendy Dianne Payne

WINNSBORO – A Winnsboro toddler was placed in emergency protective custody and his father and grandmother charged with unlawful neglect of a child after the 3-year-old was shot outside a home on Nov. 19.

According to the Fairfield County Sheriff’s Office, the victim’s father, Michael Gerald Tart, 35, of 392 Gumsprings Road, Winnsboro, was arrested and charged on Nov. 23. The victim’s grandmother, Wendy Dianne Payne, 51, of 433 Arrowood Dr., Winnsboro, was arrested a day later.

Payne brought the 3-year-old, suffering from a gunshot wound to the left leg, into the Fairfield Memorial Hospital emergency room just after 3 p.m. on Nov. 19, according to the incident report. Payne reportedly told investigators that the child had been accidentally shot by Payne’s brother-in-law, who was taking aim at a possum outside Payne’s home at approximately 12:30 p.m. that day. Payne said the child ran into the line of fire just before her brother-in-law pulled the trigger.

Investigators wanted to know why Payne did not bring the victim in immediately for medical treatment. Payne said she did, but that the emergency room was “too busy,” the report states.

Agents with the Department of Social Services (DSS), which, according to the report, already has an open case file with Payne and Tart, later told investigators that they had received an anonymous tip that the child had been shot much earlier, and possibly by someone else.

Payne’s story then began to change. She later told investigators that the child had been shot at 12:30 a.m., not 12:30 in the afternoon, but maintained that he had been accidentally shot by her brother-in-law who was aiming at a possum. She was unable, however, to provide investigators with a contact phone number for her brother-in-law. Payne said she drove the child to the emergency room that night, but found the waiting room crowded with people. She returned home with the child, she said, dressed his wounds and “cared for him all night.” Payne said her daughter had a 4 p.m. doctor’s appointment later that day, and her intention was to take the child in with her daughter for medical treatment then.

Payne said the child was not complaining of any pain and she “figured he would be OK,” during the night. She was a nurse, she said, and was “taking care of him.”

DSS agents, meanwhile, told investigators that, according to their tip, the child had been shot by his father, Tart. After interviewing the victim, investigators were able to confirm that the child had indeed been shot by Tart. Confronted with this information, Payne broke down. Weeping, she said it was her son, Tart, whom she called to the house just after midnight on Nov. 19 to shoot the possum, and not her bother-in-law.

By Nov. 23, the story had changed again. Investigators learned that the shooting actually occurred at Tart’s home on Gumsprings Road, a fact that Payne later admitted. Payne said the child wanted to go home with his father that night, and even though unsupervised custody of the child by Tart was prohibited by the DSS safety plan, Payne allowed it. But only for a short time, she said. When she went to Tart’s house a short time later to pick up the child, she found that he had been shot.

The gunshot wound, from a 9mm handgun, was through-and-through, the report states, with the bullet striking and breaking a bone as it exited the leg. The victim was transported from Fairfield Memorial to Richland Children’s Hospital, where the Emergency Protective Custody Order was later delivered to Tart.

When a search of Tart’s home on Nov. 23 failed to turn up the weapon, Tart told investigators that he had taken the gun to his place of business, “cut it up with a torch, then threw it in a lake.” Tart also, during the search, admitted to accidentally shooting his son outside of his home on Gumsprings Road. Tart said that while he was aiming at a possum, his son was standing slightly behind him and to his left on the front deck of the home. Tart said he fired two shots, one of which “must have ricocheted back and struck the victim in the leg.”

Payne arrived five minutes after the shooting, Tart said, and took the child back to her house. Tart was arrested after the search of his home. Payne was arrested on Nov. 24.

Both Tart and Payne were released on Nov. 24 from the Fairfield County Detention Center on bonds of $20,000 each.


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