Widow loses son in shooting by her school-age brother

Cristin Wacaser had been married for six months when her husband died in a car accident near Mount Charleston.

At 18, she thought she had experienced her share of tragedy.

"I never actually thought anything like that would ever happen to me again," she said on a recent morning.

But at 25, she learned that life has no quotas for suffering, that disaster can strike twice.

And this time, she would bury her 5-year-old son.

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On the morning of Sept. 25, three days after she graduated from The Art Institute of Las Vegas , Wacaser was contacted by her best friend, Jessica Corso.

The two met as students at the art institute where Wacaser earned a bachelor’s degree in fashion and retail management.

Corso asked Wacaser to hang out at the home of her new boyfriend, Sidney Jacobs. Corso had spent the morning fixing up a large playroom on the first floor of the house at 586 Lairmont Place, in the MacDonald Ranch community near Horizon Ridge Parkway and Stephanie Street in Henderson.

Wacaser could bring her son, Robert Martin IV, known as "Bobby," and her 11-year-old brother. The boys could occupy themselves with the toys in the playroom while the adults socialized.

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Wacaser related the events of that day during an interview last week on the patio of a Henderson Starbucks. First, she apologized for her appearance. She had spent hours at an animal hospital the night before agonizing over what to do with her ailing Great Dane and – ultimately – saying goodbye to him.

But what she came to talk about, with her boyfriend and miniature dachshund by her side, is what happened on Sept. 25.

Wacaser arrived at Jacobs’ house that Sunday with her son and brother about noon.

She remembers inspecting the playroom and asking Jacobs whether there was anything the boys should not touch, anything of value they could break.

"He looked at the boys, and he said, ‘You can play with anything in this room,’ " Wacaser recalled.

She went upstairs to listen to music and visit with Corso, going back downstairs every 10 minutes or so to check on the boys or bring them a snack. The house was so big that she told her brother to call her on his cellphone if he needed anything.

Bobby "was having so much fun," Wacaser recalled.

The boys were playing with toy nunchucks the last time she checked on them.

Wacaser said she had just walked back upstairs to order pizza when her phone rang. It was her brother. He was hysterical.

"Bobby’s been shot by a real gun," he told his sister.

The older boy had found the gun in a toy box.

■ ■ ■

Neither Wacaser nor Corso heard the gunshot.

"I was praying that it was a BB gun," Wacaser said.

When she got back down to the playroom, Bobby "was already blue."

Wacaser’s brother dropped to his knees and began praying to God to save his nephew. But little Bobby, who had started kindergarten a few weeks earlier at Glen Taylor Elementary School in Henderson, had a 9 mm hole in his chest.

"He was already lifeless," his mother said.

Wacaser and her brother were, as she put it, "freaking out."

She did not call 911, and she did not ride along with Bobby in the ambulance that took him to the Siena campus of St. Rose Dominican Hospital, where he was pronounced dead a short time later.

And after Wacaser arrived at the hospital, she could not bring herself to look at his body.

■ ■ ■

Records show that Corso made the 911 call at about 1:50 p.m.

A Henderson police officer arrived and entered the courtyard area, where he encountered Wacaser’s brother. The boy had blood on both of his hands and told the officer he had shot Bobby in the playroom.

As they talked, Wacaser came running toward them. The officer noticed she had blood on her chest.

According to a police report, 10 people were inside the residence when authorities arrived. Wacaser said she had no idea so many people were in the house until they emerged after the shooting.

At the scene, lying on the foyer floor, police found the black, 9 mm semi­automatic handgun that had been fired at Bobby in the playroom.

Jacobs, described in the report as "visibly upset," said he did not know how the gun had ended up in the playroom. He said he had been on vacation recently, and his roommates had moved boxes around while he was gone.

He told an officer that he and his wife were separated, and their children were living with her.

"Jacobs said that he always made sure his children knew how to be around and to handle firearms because he always had them in his house," according to the police report.

Indeed, police found numerous, un­secured firearms in various bedrooms at the house. They also found "pock marks" on a basement wall – evidence that someone had been firing live ammunition from a firearm inside the residence.

And on a shelf in the basement, amid live ammunition and shooting para­phernalia, they found a brightly colored, plastic toy gun.

The report notes that police had removed a number of live marijuana plants and growing materials from the home on June 5.

Corso told police she had been seeing Jacobs for about a month. She had been staying at his house for two weeks.

Jacobs told police Corso was trying to help him get the house straightened out and "that they just turned the front room into a kid’s playroom because he was hoping to get his son for his son’s up­coming birthday," according to the report.

After reviewing the case, Clark County prosecutors charged Jacobs with one count of child abuse and neglect with substantial bodily harm, a felony. His case is pending in Henderson Justice Court.

Jacobs did not respond to a request, made through his lawyer, to be interviewed for this story.

■ ■ ■

Wacaser’s brother told police he and Bobby had been looking for toys in the playroom’s cabinets and boxes.

After playing for about 15 minutes, he found a cardboard box labeled "treasure chest" on the shelves with the other toys in the room. He looked inside and found a paddle and ball.

The pair played with the paddle toy, and then the older boy went back to the box to look for other toys.

This time, he found a black handgun. He assumed it was a toy, too.

"Who would put a real gun in a toy box unless they were cuckoo?" the 11-year-old later told police.

He started to wave the gun around and then pulled the trigger, expecting to see confetti come out of the barrel. When Bobby slowly fell backward, the older boy thought he was faking being shot.

A few seconds passed before he realized Bobby had actually been shot. He ran out of the room but couldn’t find any adults, so he grabbed his phone and called his sister.

"My parents are so sheltering, he’d never seen a real gun," Wacaser said last week.

■ ■ ■

Wacaser, a 2004 graduate of Foothill High School in Henderson, grew up in the Las Vegas area.

She met Robert Martin III through mutual friends and began dating him. After she learned she was pregnant, they moved in together.

Bobby was born on Sept. 1, 2006.

When he was about 2, his parents broke up. But they remained friends and shared custody.

Bobby attended a Christian preschool for about 2½ years before starting kindergarten. He died before sitting for his kindergarten portrait.

When asked to describe her son, Wacaser paused to find the words and fight back the tears.

"He liked snowboarding and skiing," she began slowly. "He liked race cars, motorcycles. He liked school and his friends, his uncle, who was like his super­hero."

Bobby also liked hiking, and his mother described him as "super outgoing" and "super athletic."

The two enjoyed visiting Chuck E. Cheese’s, baking cookies and cakes, and going to the beach together.

Because Bobby and his uncle were so close in age, "they grew up together," Wacaser said.

"They did everything together," she added.

Wacaser’s brother, now 12, is her only sibling. She said he’s doing great in school, where he participates in the Gifted and Talented Education program, and wants to be an astronaut when he grows up.

But he lost his best friend when Bobby died, "so it’s hard," Wacaser added.

Sometimes he pretends he’s playing with Bobby.

As for the shooting? "We don’t really talk about it," she said.

And she doesn’t blame her brother.

"He’s completely like a good-hearted, innocent kid," she said.

She knows he never would have shot her son intentionally.

"He’s only there because I brought him there," she said.

■ ■ ■

Wacaser, now 26, moved to a mountain community in Southern California after the shooting to be closer to the winter sports she loves.

She has put her career plans on hold.

For now, she works as a riding guide and instructor at a stable and as a fitness instructor at a gym.

She is being treated for high blood pressure, anxiety and panic attacks that set in after her son’s death.

Wacaser regularly returns to the Las Vegas area to visit friends and family, and to keep tabs on Jacobs’ court cases.

In addition to the child abuse case, prosecutors recently filed a grand larceny charge against him. Wacaser and her family also have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Jacobs and his now ex-wife, Lucia.

Attorney Luis Rojas represents Lucia Jacobs, who is his sister and secretary.

He said District Judge Stefany Miley recently issued a $20 million default judgment against Sidney Jacobs. She also issued a $17 million default judgment against Lucia Jacobs, but Rojas said it has been set aside.

"The civil case against her is proceeding," the lawyer said.

Sidney Jacobs, who told those around him he was supported by a trust fund, lost the house on Lairmont Place through foreclosure.

"He put his whole fortune into that house, and he lost it all," Rojas said.

The lawyer described the home as a 22,000-square-foot house with three stories and an elevator. The grand larceny charge against Sidney Jacobs involves removal of property from the home.

Rojas said his family has wanted to offer condolences to Bobby’s family.

The lawyer said his sister moved out of the house in December 2009. She has sole legal and physical custody of the couple’s three children.

"We understand it could have been one of her kids, but we take no solace in the fact that it was someone else’s," Rojas said. "We’re just devastated."

Wacaser hopes the court cases will help answer the many questions she still has about the details surrounding her son’s death. She also hopes the publicity will encourage gun owners to be more responsible with their weapons.

"You can teach kids about gun safety, but they’re still kids," she said.

Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at cgeer@reviewjournal.com or 702-384-8710.

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