Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Gun Range Death of Christopher Bizilj

Sorrow and Indictments

 

Christopher Bizilj died just six weeks before his ninth birthday. Christopher's father told mourners at the funeral that the boy's too-short life had been a full one. Dr. Bizilj described taking his son hiking on Alaskan glaciers, mining gems in Nevada, and how the boy had learned to order gelato in Italian. In his eulogy, he said: "Christopher lived a lifetime in his eight short years. Susie and I have no regrets."

Dr. Charles Bizilj
Dr. Charles Bizilj

Despite Dr. Bizilj's stirring words, he and his wife could not get past their regrets. They divorced in the aftermath of the shooting. Dr. Bizilj wrote a book about getting through the grieving process titled One Road Out: Heal After the Sudden Loss of a Loved One.

One question remained: Who would be held responsible for Christopher's death?

Prosecutors presented evidence to a grand jury against all the organizers and gun providers at the Machine Gun Shoot & Firearms Expo. In the case of Edward Fleury, the grand jury returned an involuntary manslaughter indictment for the death of Christopher Bizilj and four counts of furnishing a machine gun to a person under 18. The four youngsters who were shown to have been given machine guns were the Bizilj boys and 11-year-old Michael Spielman and an unidentified young woman. The latter two were spotted on a videotape of the Machine Gun Shoot taken by Michael Spielman's father James, although inability to identify the woman would lead to the final charge being dropped before trial.

Domenico Spano and Carl Giuffre, the men who actually brought the machine guns to Westfield and directly oversaw their use, were only charged with involuntary manslaughter, not furnishing a machine gun to minors. The Westfield Sportsman's Club was indicted for involuntary manslaughter and furnishing.

Many observers wondered if Dr. Charles Bizilj would face any charges in his son's tragic death since he was the one who allowed his young sons to shoot machine guns in the first place. Prosecutor William Bennett said later that he decided not to charge the father after seeing the entire videotape. In video never shown to the jury or public, the moments after the shooting are shown: Bizilj drops his camera into the grass and rushes to his son. All that is visible on-screen is the fatal gun, but Dr. Bizilj is heard wailing and praying for his son's life. After hearing the crying and lamentations, Bennett decided the father had suffered enough and that it wouldn't be right to charge him as well.

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