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Published: Thursday, 5/13/2004

Pittsford mourns death of girl, 10, shot by her 12-year-old brother

BY GEORGE J. TANBER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Craft Craft
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PITTSFORD, Mich. - Residents of Pittsford Township, Michigan, yesterday were mourning the second shooting death in four years of a child by another child handling a gun.

Katie Lynn Craft, 10, died Tuesday afternoon in her home after being shot with a rifle held by her 12-year-old brother.

"It's a tragedy," said Carol Trine, the township clerk.

Katie and her brother were alone at the time of the shooting around 12:40 p.m. in a home her father, John Craft, rented on East Beecher Road, just north of the village of Pittsford in Hillsdale County.

Mr. Craft was moving his family to Somerset Township in northeast Hillsdale County, and the children had been excused from school on Tuesday, according to Andrew Shaw, elementary school principal and interim superintendent at Pittsford Local Schools.

Mr. Craft had left the house to deliver some of the family's belongings to their Somerset residence when the incident occurred, Sheriff Stan Burchardt said.

He said Katie's brother was handling a single-shot 50-caliber muzzle-loader rifle - a replica of a rifle used in the 1800s and currently popular with deer hunters - when the weapon discharged, striking Katie.

"It's a powerful weapon," Sheriff Burchardt said.

Katie was pronounced dead at the scene by the county's medical examiner, Dr. Lawrence Dasch.

Deputy Lucas County coroner Dr. Cynthia Beisser performed an autopsy yesterday.

Dr. Dasch and Dr. Beisser did not return phone calls yesterday afternoon.

Sheriff Burchardt said his department's investigation is continuing.

"We're trying to determine [who] loaded the gun," he said.

The sheriff declined to release the name of Mr. Craft's son because of his age.

The children's mother, who also was not named, lives in Nebraska and was contacted after the shooting, Sheriff Burchardt said.

Yesterday at Pittsford Local, a K-12 school with 705 students and where Katie was a fourth-grade student, counselors and clergy were available for counseling after teachers explained the incident to their students.

"We're like a family here. We deal with things like a family and we try to move forward," Mr. Shaw said.

He said Katie was a good student.

"She always had a smile on her face. She was a good kid," he said.

The Craft children had attended Pittsford schools two years.

Mr. Shaw said he did not know whether the children were going to transfer to Somerset schools or remain at Pittsford.

Shirley Neinas, a neighbor of the Crafts on Beecher, said she did not know the family.

"They were a keep-to-yourself type of family," she said.

On Sept. 30, 2000, 12-year-old James Bowditch of neighboring Jefferson Township was shot and killed by a 12-year-old friend while the friend played with a gun owned by his father. The youths attended Pittsford schools.

"Easy access to weapons, guns, and ammunition - and young kids with no supervision - is a recipe for disaster," Sheriff Burchardt said.

Contact George J. Tanber at:

gtanber@theblade.com

or 734-241-3610.



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