A 21-year-old Palm Coast man with a criminal history, CJ Nelson Jr., has been identified as a key person of interest in the fatal shooting of an 18-month-old girl in Palm Coast, Florida, according to Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly. Nelson was taken into custody on Monday for a probation violation related to a previous gun charge. However, he has not been formally charged in connection with the toddler’s death.
The tragic incident occurred on Sunday night when the local sheriff’s office received a desperate 911 call reporting a baby had been shot. The toddler was immediately rushed to AdventHealth Palm Coast, where she was pronounced dead on arrival. The cause of death was a gunshot wound to the head.
The circumstances surrounding the toddler’s death remain unclear, with the possibility of it being an accidental shooting. The investigation is ongoing, with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s crime scene investigators assisting the sheriff’s office. Sheriff Staly confirmed that eight adults were present in the house at the time of the incident, none of whom have been ruled out as suspects. The sheriff also noted a lack of cooperation from the individuals present.
The toddler’s biological mother was among those present during the incident, while the biological father was not. Sheriff Staly expressed frustration at the lack of transparency from those involved, stating that the investigation would progress more smoothly if everyone present would provide truthful accounts of the events that transpired.
During the investigation, authorities discovered 420 grams of marijuana and 11 grams of a substance believed to be either cocaine or heroin inside the home. Despite this, Sheriff Staly stated that the case does not appear to be drug-related at this time. The weapon used in the shooting, an American tactical multi-caliber assault pistol, is currently undergoing forensic analysis. The sheriff confirmed that the toddler did not come into contact with the firearm.
Nelson’s previous charges include a felony for carrying a concealed weapon and a misdemeanor for marijuana possession, for which he was sentenced to probation. The sheriff’s department has responded to 13 calls from the residence since 2010, including two in 2023 for a stolen vehicle and a 911 investigation. The property is believed to be a rental, suggesting that not all calls may be associated with the current occupants.
Sheriff Staly described the incident as a rare and tragic event in the community, expressing his deepest sympathies to the toddler’s family. The investigation continues, with the sheriff’s office committed to holding those responsible accountable.