FREDERICKSBURG -- The Holmes County Sheriff says that a man cleaning his muzzle-loading rifle may have accidentally shot and killed a 15-year-old Amish girl last week while she was driving a horse-drawn buggy.
Holmes County Sheriff Timothy Zimmerly said that the man had returned home from deer hunting on Thursday night and shot his rifle into the air to clean it.
That shot occurred about the same time that Rachel Yoder of Fredericksburg, was shot in the head.
Yoder riding alone in her buggy after attending a Christmas party for employees, most under 18 years old, who work at an Amish produce farm.
As she was driving, a bullet struck Yoder on the top of the head, said Gary Gunther, chief investigator of the Summit County Medical Examiner's Office. Police found a mile-and-a-half-long trail of blood that went from where Yoder was struck to her home on Salt Creek Road.
Yoder's family found the girl near the home's driveway after noticing the horse and buggy were circling out front, Gunther said. A medical helicopter took her to an Akron hospital where she died Friday afternoon.
"Right now, it looks like this was an accidental shooting," said Zimmerly. "That's the way you clean a muzzle loader. It is not looking like an intentional shooting."
No charges have been filed. The sheriff said the man has provided authorities with a statement about his actions.
Zimmerly says the slug recovered from the body looks like a bullet used in a muzzle-loading rifle. The state Bureau of Criminal Investigation is analyzing the bullet in an attempt to verify whether it came from the man's gun.