TOMS RIVER, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP)The father of a then-4-year-old New Jersey boy who shot to death a 6-year-old neighbor with his father’s unsecured gun pleaded guilty Thursday to child endangerment charges.

Anthony Senatore, of Toms River, entered his plea in state Superior Court and faces three years in prison.

The 35-year-old had rejected a plea bargain in November 2013 that would have carried a seven-year prison term.

Brandon Holt (CBS 2)

Brandon Holt (CBS 2)

Senatore was charged with keeping a loaded .22-caliber rifle unsecured in his bedroom. That’s where his son found it in April 2013, took it outside and shot 6-year-old Brandon Holt once in the head.

Senatore pleaded guilty Thursday to second-degree child endangerment charge for having the rifle and four shotguns unsecured in his house near ammunition and third-degree child endangerment for Brandon’s death.

At a hearing in November 2013, defense attorney Robert Ebberup said his client is “deeply horrified over what took place and feels awful about it,” but added that Senatore should not have been charged with a crime.

“This is a civil case,” Ebberup said. “This doesn’t belong in the criminal courtroom.”

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