MILLERSBURG, Ohio — An Amish man who fired a shot into the air as he cleared his rifle was charged Tuesday with reckless homicide in the shooting death of a 15-year-old girl who was driving a horse-drawn buggy home from a Christmas party more than a mile away when she was struck.
Holmes County prosecutor Steve Knowling said the third-degree felony count against 28-year-old Marion R. Yoder comes after examining recently completed ballistics evidence and an autopsy report on Rachel Yoder, of Fredricksburg. The two aren't related.
Authorities said Rachel Yoder was driving a horse-drawn buggy home in Wayne County from an employee party last December. She dropped off a friend before she was shot around 10 p.m., about three miles from her home. Police said she fell out of the buggy after the horse carted her home. Her brother noticed the horse and buggy going in a circle and found the unresponsive teen on the ground. She died a day later.
Authorities first thought she might have fallen from the buggy and hit her head, but an autopsy report concluded she died of a gunshot wound to the head and ruled her death a homicide.
Marion Yoder was clearing a round out of his muzzle-loading rifle following a hunting trip and fired a shot into the air more than a mile from the girl, Knowling said. There's no evidence Marion Yoder accidentally shot the gun, Knowling said.
Knowling said he examined extensive ballistics evidence and Rachel Yoder's final autopsy report before filing the charge. If found guilty, Marion Yoder could face several years in prison, though it's unclear how many because of recent changes to state law on reckless homicide charges.
Lt. Richard Haun of the Holmes County Sheriff's Office said a warrant for Marion Yoder's arrest will be processed in the next few days. He said Marion Yoder has been cooperative with officials, and they expect him to turn himself in. He has no attorney listed yet, Haun said.
"We've been in contact with both families several times," he said. "This is an unfortunate incident for both the victim's family and Mr. Yoder's family."
The shooting occurred amid a rash of beard-cutting attacks against Amish men in a feud over church discipline. Authorities had previously said there was no indication that Rachel Yoder's death was related, but the mystery of the shooting left some Amish shaken.