DARLINGTON COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – The Hartsville man who allegedly shot and killed a 5-year-old boy while handling a loaded gun while impaired in 2017 pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and unlawful neglect of a child Thursday morning and was sentenced to five years in prison.
Rodney Thomas Pittman Jr. was sentenced to a total of five years in prison on the two charges, minus the 189 days he has already served since the incident in September of 2017. He was sentenced to five years on each charge, but they will run concurrently.
Pittman wiped tears from his eyes throughout the hearing, and his lawyer said that he would do anything to undo the tragic loss of Kalen Sherlock, including giving up his own.
Watch the complete hearing below:
"I feel horrible because I let him down, he trusted me to protect him," Pittman said. "I would like to apologize to Mr. Sherlock for the loss of his son, I loved him I was supposed to be there for him. I never thought this would happen, if I could change it, I promise I would."
Pittman remembered that morning, "He just kept loving me a hugging me before he went to bed and kept telling me he loved me. It was such a good day. I never thought it would turn out like that. I wish I had more hindsight. In the future I would like to tell people about this and try to prevent it from happening to anybody else."
Tim Sherlock, Caleb's biological father, emotionally offered forgiveness and said he knows there was no malice or intent to hurt his son, but a terrible lapse of judgment.
"The fact that Rodney is willing to take responsibility speaks volumes," Sherlock said. "He is the first man that I ever trusted to take care of my kids. So I do offer my forgiveness, it doesn't excuse what happens and that will never go away. I watch his brother every day look for him and ask me why it has to be this way."
Sherlock continued, addressing Pittman: "I know in my heart my son would want some ounce of growth to come out of this, so I say: don't you dare die. You owe my son to stay alive and let his memory live on and hopefully change your life and help somebody else to not pick up that drug or drink or make those selfish choices, you owe him that much."
Pittman's sister and stepfather spoke in front of the court, and his immediate family was also in the courtroom for support.
Judge Paul Burch recommended Pittman to have mental health and substance abuse counseling.
Beth Sherlock, the victim's mother, faces two counts of unlawful neglect towards a child and is waiting for a trial.
The shooting happened on Friday, September 15, 2017 at a residence in the North Hartsville area of Darlington County on Folly Road.
Agents with the Darlington County Sheriff's Office and the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division both processed the scene around 3 a.m. Friday.
DCSO investigators said Pittman lived at the house with the 5-year-old boy and his mother. Law enforcement quickly took Pittman into custody, as he was outside of the residence at the time when he was detained.
Arrest warrants for Pittman allege that he showed a "reckless disregard for the safety of others" by attempting to retrieve the loaded gun from the kitchen area of residence while impaired. "As a result of his effort to retrieve the firearm, the weapon discharged within the residence causing great bodily harm (death)" to the victim, the warrant states. The warrant also states that Pittman admitted to discharging the gun.