Reckless homicide charge in Ohio Amish shooting

Fifteen-year-old Rachel Yoder was killed in Holmes County, Ohio last December when an Amish hunter fired his weapon into the air from over a mile away. Rachel was hit in the head while driving her buggy home from a Christmas gathering.

The news is that Marion Yoder, the shooter, will be charged with reckless homicide. If convicted the 28-year-old faces the possibility of several years in prison.

At the time reader Mary, who attended Rachel’s funeral and spoke with both families, shared the following:

It is a long sad story but yes, it was an accident. The bullet traveled 1-1/4 mi. before hitting Rachel on top of her head. Since it was a very windy night they are assuming she had her head down to ward off the wind.

The bullet came through the opening on the front end of the buggy which was not enclosed with a storm front.

This story evoked a lot of discussion, speculation, and criticism of the practice of discharging weapons into the air.  After this story broke I remember reading several accounts of similar incidents occurring during New Year’s celebrations for example.

Firing a weapon into the air in a rural area is not as dangerous as doing the same thing in the middle of a city, but as this story shows can still have tragic consequences.

Mary also shared this about the shooter and his family:

The son who shot, along with his father, came to the victim’s family the morning after the funeral and apologized profusely while weeping bitterly. The police encouraged them to wait but after telling him they need to go now, were allowed to go.

The family forgave, and they are still friends. Both families are Amish. The shooter has a brother who is on his deathbed this moment from a rare disease. We are praying for his family as well as my cousin’s family.

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    1. Richard from Amish Stories

      I remember reading about this story on your web site Erik, and its a very sad post that one hates to hear about and read. I’m very sorry to the Amish parents who lost their daughter, and I’m just glad that this family has so much faith to help them somehow carry on. And they forgave that young man which is a testament to their Amish faith, something to be admired i must say. Richard

      1. Yes Richard I was wondering when/if we’d hear about this again. Terrible to imagine what they all have been through.

        If it’s not too crass to seek a silver lining here, I wonder if this tragedy has had any impact on hunters’ habits, assuming this type of discharge wasn’t a one-off occurrence. Not something you’d want to see happen again.

    2. Everything about this story breaks my heart. Prayers for both families who I’m sure are in some state of shock over the whole incident.

    3. correct location

      Actually, Rachel lived in Wayne Co., but was shot in Holmes Co., where the charges have been filed.

      1. Thanks Bruce, fixed. Should have stuck with my first draft.

    4. That is heart ache on heartache.

    5. Galen

      I’m surprised that the shooter will be charged and has to stand trial. It is clear that the victim’s family has forgiven their Amish neighbors and realize it was an accident. If an English person is the driver involved in a fatal car accident, seldom are they charged or given a citation, unless alcohol or drugs is involved.

      I’m not sure what several years in prison will accomplish other than trying to make an example out of the shooter. Was Dick Cheney charged in his “accidental” shooting? The victim there didn’t die, but I don’t think he was even cited for reckless use of a firearm.

      1. Matt from CT

        My guess is this will end up as a plea bargain — one year suspended sentence with the felony conviction; the felony will bar him from possessing firearms in the future.

        >If an English person is the driver involved in a
        >fatal car accident, seldom are they charged or
        >given a citation

        You have to dive into the world of circa 1920 America for that; both statutory and case law developed that treated traffic accidents in general not as seriously as it would treat similar events not on the roads. This was pushed by both manufacturers and owners groups to ensure that the legal risks of owning and operating an automobile weren’t so high as to discourage their ownership.

        I can’t find the article now; earlier this spring I recall reading a new CT state statute that strengthened the law following an incident in a which a car hit a horse and rider (rider was injured but recovered; horse was killed) on a back road and the driver only received a written warning.

        I’m not sure on the specifics, but I believe the old case law which is why only a written warning was issued was if the other party had any amount of blame, then it wasn’t a crime.

      2. Carolyn B

        Great Englisher example, Galen.

        From a 2010 article in the Washington Post, the last paragraphs point out that Dick Cheney has yet to apologize even 5 years after the event. **Unlike the Amish shooter whose family along with him apologized for his actions.

        Haven’t been able to locate anything stating why there were no charges brought against Cheney. I’m theorizing politics has its benefits.

      3. What is now my niece’s husband spent three months in prison from the same area a number of years ago because he was driving the truck that flipped and killed one of the passengers and nobody had pressed charges.

      4. D Yoder

        Every one who really knows about Marion’s family knows how they treat others, especially the behavior of his father. Why he has never been charged for some of the things he has done to others and their animals is beyond me. When it comes to the corruption involved with deer farming he tops the list. He is liked by very few people because of the actions he has chosen. The behavior of Marion shooting in the air in the direction, over public roads, 2 school houses, over 20 dwellings, shows the callousness that has long been a trademark of this family.

        Some of the things that have recently happen to this family makes one think about reaping what you sow.

    6. Debbie Welsh

      This was a bizarre and tragic accident that I don’t think warrents the charge of reckless homicide. It was a terrible yet non-intentionally made mistake on the part of the shooter whom I’m sure already feels bad enough for the rest of his life. In this case I think the law should do as the Amish did and simply forgive the incident.

    7. Marilyn from NY

      Reckless homicide charge in Ohio Amish shooting

      I read about this before on Amish America and I think the whole thing was sad. My feeling if the girl’s family can forgive him them he shouldn’t be charged. Even though it was an accident Marion has to live with this the rest of his life and I think that is punishment enough.

    8. Alice Mary


      I am in agreement with others here who also feel the reckless homicide charges are inappropriate and should be dropped. It was clearly accidental, not the result of drunken rowdiness you might “expect” on New Year’s Eve, although that’s certainly no excuse for it.

      I know personally of some who in the past have “celebrated” this way, despite warnings that “what goes up must come down”…the only “good” that may have come of this is the far-reaching coverage the story got, and the very real and tragic outcome that we can only hope may be avoided in the future, by all who’ve read and heard of what happened here.

      I don’t see what good imprisoning this young man would do. I pray for him, his family, his dying brother. They have “paid” enough for what was an obvious accident…and have been forgiven by those who were affected the most.

      Alice Mary

    9. Ed

      Do Amish serve on juries?

      Question — Do Amish typically serve on juries, when called for jury duty? I know that Amish will not initiate lawsuits. But what about serving as jurors?

      Another issue is that prospective jurors are typically culled from driver’s license or voter registration records, and if the Amish have neither the county may not know about them. Although, in places with large Amish populations like Holmes County, Ohio this must have been an issue before so I wonder both how the county identifies Plain residents who are eligible for jury duty and the willingness of the Amish to serve in this role when called to do so.

    10. Ed

      Google re: Amish Jury Duty

      According to the book, “The Amish and The State” by Donald Kraybill, “Most Amish avoid jury duty because of their religious objection to standing in judgment over other human beings, especially those who are not part of their household of faith. They believe that God alone should judge people… In recent years more Amish have been called for jury duty as some of them obtain identification cards or register to vote. In Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, courts excuse Amish individuals from jury duty on the basis of their religious beliefs if they present a letter from an Amish bishop…”

      I also find references to a 2004 law in Ohio exempting Amish from jury duty; they law was ironically presented as a way to encourage more Amish to vote, on the theory that they avoid registering to vote in order to avoid jury duty. The Ohio State Bar association website below confirms that those who are members of a recognized Amish sect are exempt from duty, although the exemption is not automatic; all exemptions must be approved by the court.

    11. SharonR

      Reckless homicide charge

      I, too, am saddened by this whole incident, and feel the sentence to the Amish hunter was a bit harsh. What is important here, is that both families are still talking to one another, and there has been forgiveness. Very sad.

    12. Tom in KY

      It was an unfortunate situation and I am torn on my opinion. On one end the man could not have envisioned this would happen, however, he did fire a weapon into the air so to claim he bares no responsibility is to gloss over the situation. I hope the courts will examine the situation and issue a fair ruling. Honestly if I was the judge I am not sure what I would do.

    13. I agree with Alice Mary’s comments. Usually the states attorney brings about charges following a lengthy investigation. Reminder- 2012 is a political year. Laws vary from state to state.

      Comment: I’m not defending Dick Cheney but the shooting occurred on private property, all parties involved were legal in the hunt, the gentleman he accidentally shot was an attorney friend, thus I saw no charges filed. Maybe-yearly gun safety courses for all who carry a gun.

      The Amish incident is an accidental tragedy for all parties involved. May God and prayer be the judgment call.

    14. Michigan Mary

      An Update To The Story

      Mark, the brother of the shooter, who had a very serious and life-threatening illness has since gone on to be with the Lord. Our friends in Holmes County live in the same neighborhood as the shooter. A couple of years back my DH and I went to a private, 3-church benefit dinner and auction to raise money for Mark and his family. It was a great evening and we had the chance to meet Mark, his wife and children and several of Marks’s siblings. He was a brave and courageous young man who certainly didn’t deserve to die so young and from such a horrible disease that slowly took his vitality and his life. And now, his brother, the shooter, is also suffering from the same illness as well as being a “special” kid to start with. They may have charged him, but I don’t think he will ever serve a day in prison – at least that is my heartfelt prayer to God.

      1. Teresa B.

        @ Michigan Mary: Thank you for providing an important update to this story. My computer was down at the time, and I’m catching up on Amish America stories and posts. News that Marion Yoder is a special learning person and has a possibly terminal disease is very sad. I send prayers to him and his family. He did not intentionally kill the young girl, just made a poor choice. However as a parent, I would still be devastated by her death. For Rachel’s family to forgive him is amazing, and a teachable moment for the rest of us. I also extend sympathies and prayers to Rachel’s family. This is an example of how important it is to know the “rest of the story”. This situation can alter the thinking of those who say “punish, punish”.