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Fredericksburg, OH — A 15-year-old Amish girl named Rachel Yoder was riding home alone Thursday night after attending a Christmas party at a nearby produce farm. Inexplicably, as she approached her home, she fell out of the buggy onto the ground. Her brother found her after he saw her horse and buggy circling around her.

The teen died of an apparent head injury. At first, authorities reportedly believed that she had fallen out of the buggy and hit her head. A hospital examination revealed that, in fact, she had been shot in the head.

Wayne County sheriff’s Capt. Douglas Hunter said his department traced a trail of blood along the road the girl had traveled back about three-eighths of a mile into neighboring Holmes County – an area of farms and rolling hills. Although the site of the shooting had been pinpointed, the cause was unknown.

The residents in the area were left to speculate for days. Then, Holmes County Sheriff Timothy Zimmerly said a family who lived about 1.5 miles from the site of the teen’s fatal gunshot wound contacted authorities with the probable cause.

It turned out that a member of the family who came forward had been cleaning a muzzle-loader rifle when he made the fateful mistake of firing it into the air. Investigators believe that, a moment later and 1.5 miles away, that round would strike Rachel Yoder in the head, killing her.

A neighbor of the unidentified shooter confirmed the single shot fired about the time of the girl’s demise. Zimmerly said that state investigators are now checking the rifle for a ballistics match.

“In all probability, it looks like an accidental shooting,” he added. No charges have been filed.

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