A stray bullet struck a Marthasville home and landed just feet from where two girls were playing.
Around 5 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 5, Madelyn Grafrath and her friend, Erica Rich, both 11, were enjoying time after school in the living room of Doug and Becky Grafrath off of Town Branch Road in Marthasville.
Madelyn’s sister, Katelyn Grafrath, 15, was in her bedroom and their mom was in the kitchen.
A loud noise startled them all. Becky and Katelyn ran to the living room where the noise seemed to originate. Becky immediately thought something electrical had exploded, but Madelyn began seeing what she thought was smoke coming from the wall.
The girls also noticed that the carpet was raised. What they thought was smoke was plaster from the wall where they then noticed a small hole.
“I heard it back in the bedroom,” said Katelyn. “It was loud.”
“I thought something blew up in there,” said Becky. “Katelyn saw a hole in the carpet and then saw a hole in the wall outside.”
Becky called her landlord, Murrill Wohler, who placed a dowel rod in the exterior hole that pointed to the carpet just a foot or two away from where Rich was sitting. He knew it was a bullet hole and called the Warren County Sheriff’s Department.
Deputy Jason Maskey responded to the residence, corroborating Wohler’s finding. He searched the area of Highway O, but did not find anyone target practicing.
Wohler attempted to remove the bullet, but it had penetrated to an inaccessible area of the residence. Continued efforts will be made to extract the bullet.
Because of the trajectory of the bullet, Deputy Maskey believed the gunshot came from higher ground, possibly from Highway O.
The incident was upsetting to everyone, but Becky Grafrath said she’s thankful that none of the girls were hurt. A few inches higher and the bullet would have hit a glass-front cabinet. A few inches to the center of the house and her husband would have been a prime target.
What could have been a tragedy may serve to remind people handling firearms to go the extra mile in checking the area for homes, livestock and businesses before they shoot, said Warren County Sheriff Kevin Harrison,
Harrison said since the county has become more populated, people using firearms need to realize that even though they may not see a house, there may be one just over the hilltop or through the trees.
“Know what is beyond your target,” he said. “Nearly every year during hunting season, a building is struck by a stray bullet. We have been fortunate that no one has been hurt.”
Harrison said that a deer rifle can travel 2 to 3 miles. People hunting squirrels even with a low-powered .22 rifle often shoot into the tree, often missing the intended target. Even handguns are a risk, he said.
The best way to prevent accidents when sighting firearms in preparation for hunting is to have a safe backdrop surrounding a personal gun range.
Harrison said most people in the county use their own property instead of a commercial firing range.
“They absolutely think they are being safe,” said Harrison. “Their bullets are traveling farther than they think.”
The fall hunting season will be in full swing in a matter of weeks. People target practicing or hunting near residential areas need to use extreme caution, said Harrison.
He said the best backstop for a target area is an earthen structure that gives you a large margin of error. He does not recommend round hay bales or any substance that could ricochet, such as rock or metal.
As far as reporting incidents to the sheriff’s department, Harrison said generally gunfire after 10 p.m. can be considered a peace disturbance. Unsafe incidents should be reported or any illegal activity.
Above all, Harrison said “drinking and shooting don’t mix.”
The Grafraths are a bit nervous every time they hear gunfire in the area. The experience they said has shattered the thought that they are safe in their own living room.