Girl, 5, Kills Herself With Gun

When Brandajah Smith shot herself, was it an accident -- or did she deliberately pull the trigger?

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Living with such turmoil may have been too much for Brandajah.

At John Dilbert Community School, teachers and counselors filled the little girl's school records with alarming details. Information shared by Brandon Pierre, the girl's father, indicates that the school contacted state child-welfare officials multiple times. The school believed that the little girl was being sexually abused. And there was something else.

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"She had expressed suicidal ideations to a school counselor," says Orleans Parish Assistant District Attorney Christopher Bowman, who serves as a spokesman for the area prosecutor's office. "She was apparently very, very close to her 8-year-old sister and apparently asked, 'If I kill myself, will I still see my sister?' "

According to school records, officials at John Dilbert were so nervous, they assigned a school aide to shadow Brandajah. The aide's job: never leave the 5-year-old alone, not even for a trip to the bathroom, according to Bowman. (The school's principal did not respond to multiple requests for comment.)

Prosecutors allege that Brandajah's mother was well-aware of the school's concerns. School records indicate that the mother had been warned that staying with her cousin -- a felon who has since been charged with illegal possession of a gun -- simply was not safe.

Pierre says that he was unaware of Brandajah's troubles at school; he says no one shared the information in the school files with him until after his daughter's death. He also says that he did not see his daughter as often as he would have because his relationship with her mother was strained.

"Reading some of the things in that [school] file, they made my stomach turn," he says. "I had no idea all of this was going on. But I wish to God that I had."

Falling Through The Cracks

Ladericka Smith's criminal record and limited education made it difficult for her to get a job, her family member said. According to the relative, Smith, 28, also tried but wasn't able to sign up for welfare benefits. Smith is part of a large group of Louisianans who have been rejected from welfare rolls in the state.