COLUMBUS, Ohio — An Ohio Amish man who fired a shot into the air that killed a 15-year-old girl driving a horse-drawn buggy more than a mile away will go to jail for 30 days, a prosecutor said Wednesday.
As part of an agreement with prosecutors, Marion Yoder, 28, pleaded guilty Tuesday to a misdemeanor count of negligent homicide, said Steve Knowling, the prosecutor for Holmes County in northern Ohio.
A judge sentenced Yoder to the maximum 180 days in the county jail – but suspended all but 30 days of the term. Yoder will be on probation for three years and could go back to jail for the full term if he violates it.
Yoder was clearing a round out of his .50-caliber muzzle-loading rifle following a hunting trip when he fired a shot into the air, authorities said. More than a mile away, Rachel Yoder was driving the buggy home from a Christmas party southwest of Canton when she was struck by the round, they said. The two are not related.
"It's kind of a cautionary tale," Knowling said. "You fire into the air, and it's got to come down somewhere."
Marion Yoder initially was charged with felony reckless homicide.
"The victim's family did not want to proceed with this as a felony, and given the circumstances of the case I took that into consideration," Knowling said. "I think it's a fair resolution to the case and brings closure to both sides."
Marion Yoder apologized in court Tuesday and his father read a statement, Knowling said.
Rachel Yoder dropped off a friend before she was shot around 10 p.m. Dec. 15, about three miles from her home. Police said the horse carted her home and she fell out of the buggy. 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.
Yoder has to report to jail in Millersburg on Friday. Other terms of his probation include forfeiting the rifle and taking a hunter-safety course. His attorney didn't immediately return a phone message left Wednesday.
The shooting occurred amid a rash of beard-cutting attacks against Amish men in a feud over church discipline. Sixteen Amish men are standing trial in federal court in Cleveland in connection with the alleged hate crimes.