COLUMBUS, Miss. — A Mississippi man has been sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty to killing the 4-year-old son of the woman he was dating.

Patrick Chambers was arrested in January 2015 in the shooting death of Brayden Barksdale. Investigators say the boy was killed with a rifle.

Chambers, 30, pleaded guilty to capital murder Friday and was sentenced to life without parole as a habitual offender.

He had previous felonies from Williams County, North Dakota, including conspiracy to commit burglary and several counts of violation of a protection order, the Commercial Dispatch reported .

In court, Circuit Judge Jim Kitchens read a statement from Brayden’s mother, Amy Boykin.

“He will never get the chance to go to school, have friends, write his name or live his life,” the statement said. “… Brayden was the one thing that kept me grounded.”

Brayden’s father, Jeffrey Barksdale, wore a T-shirt with the slogan, “Justice for Brayden.” During the hearing Friday, Barksdale dabbed his eyes with a handkerchief.

Chambers declined to speak to the boy’s family in the courtroom.

Assistant District Attorney Armstrong Walters said Chambers initially told authorities that Brayden shot himself, but an investigation showed it would have been impossible for the boy to shoot himself with the hunting rifle. Walters said the rifle could not have gone off accidentally, something else Chambers claimed during the investigation.

Boykin and several friends and relatives gathered behind the courthouse after the sentencing to release balloons in Brayden’s honor. Many people wore T-shirts that had a picture of Brayden riding a toy tractor. The backs of the shirts read, “Riding the Rainbow for Justice.”

WTVA-TV reported that Chambers was immediately turned over to the state Department of Corrections to begin serving his sentence.

Author photo
The AP is one of the largest and most trusted sources of independent newsgathering. AP is neither privately owned nor government-funded; instead, as a not-for-profit news cooperative owned by its American newspaper and broadcast members, it can maintain its single-minded focus on newsgathering and its commitment to the highest standards of objective, accurate journalism.