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Hunter's Stray Bullet Blamed in Death

Woman killed in Fayette home

Wednesday, November 28, 2001

By Dan Gigler and Michael A. Fuoco, Post-Gazette Staff Writers

A woman was shot and killed in her Fayette County home yesterday afternoon in what investigators believe may have been a stray shot fired by a hunter on the second day of deer season.

Fayette County 911 operators received a call at 4:07 p.m. for a woman unconscious and bleeding in her home on the Hampton Church Loop in Springfield.

State police identified the victim as Meriel Bowser, 66, and said she lived in the ranch-style home with her husband. The woman was found in her bedroom, apparently struck by a single shot, said state Trooper Daniel Ekis.

She was pronounced dead at the scene.

State police responded and called in the Pennsylvania Game Commission, which becomes the lead investigative agency when shootings are believed to be hunting-related.

“We’re working with the game commission now to see if there was a game law violation or a criminal act in this case,” Ekis said.

Ekis said the home is in a remote wooded area frequented by hunters.

Game commission investigators are seeking to determine whether complaints of a hunter firing in a “safety zone” near homes about 400 yards from the victim’s house may be linked to the killing.

The timing of the two incidents was believed to be “relatively close,” game commission spokesman Mel Schacke said, “but whether they are identical or not I don’t know yet.

“There are a lot of pieces that have to be put into this puzzle,” Schacke said last night. “We need daylight to examine the scene. The officers at the scene know the path of the bullet once it hit the house, but whether or not it’s linked to the earlier incident or whether it came from something else has to be determined.”

Schacke said the wildlife conservation officers investigating the death know the name of the hunter who residents complained was firing inside the 150-yard safety buffer around their homes. State law mandates that hunters not fire weapons within 150 yards of any occupied building, including if the hunted animal is within that perimeter but the hunter is not.

If the shooting was hunting-related, it would be the first such accident in nearly five years, when two people were killed by stray bullets.

On Dec. 9, 1996, Roberta Ferrebee, a Beaver County mother of two, died when a stray bullet pierced the window of her Ohioville home and struck her in the neck.

A week later, George Thomas Fordyce of Donegal Township, Westmoreland County, was killed instantly while driving on Old Route 40 when a bullet penetrated a back window on his van, striking him below the right ear.

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