Hunting Accident File > Safe Hunting

NJ: Man kills wife while shooting squirrel

Jan 5, 2009
Cops: N.J. Man Kills Wife With Pellet Gun

Investigators Say Frank McDonald Accidentally Shot Dead His Wife, Cheryl, With Weapon Used To Hunt Squirrels

Reporting Christine Sloan


Police are calling it a tragic accident. A New Jersey man has been charged with reckless manslaughter after accidentally shooting and killing his wife with a pellet gun.

Frank McDonald is free on bail after allegedly shooting his wife to death. Police said he accidentally shot her with a pellet gun he used to shoot squirrels.

McDonald did not want to talk to CBS 2 HD about the tragedy that occurred inside his West Milford home this past weekend.

The 49-year-old, who is out on bail, has been charged with reckless manslaughter after police said he accidentally shot and killed his wife with a pellet gun that he allegedly kept around to shoot squirrels who went near his bird feeder.

Captain Michael Coscia of the West Milford Police Department described what allegedly happened.

"The weapon itself was being handled in the kitchen by the husband," Coscia said. "It was discharged striking the victim in the back."

Police said McDonald said he was cleaning the pellet gun when it accidentally went off.

It's been a nightmare for the entire family. Investigators said the couple's 12-year-old son was in a room next door when his mother was shot.

Neighbors said the victim, Cheryl McDonald, was a great person.

"She's a lovely mom ... lovely child ... just a lovely lady," one person said. "We shared a lot of laughs together."

Police said McDonald's pellet gun looks like one that can be found on YouTube. It's a single shot weapon, meaning each time the gun is fired it has to be reloaded with a single pellet.

You need a firearm identification card to own a pellet gun in New Jersey and police said you can't just go around shooting squirrels in your backyard.

"Squirrels fall under small game. There's a hunting season for them and that's when they're supposed to be hunted," Capt. Coscia said. "In his case he was explaining that they were bothering his bird feeders and he was feeling he was resolving a problem on his own."

While authorities said Cheryl McDonald's death was a tragic accident, they also told CBS 2 HD they're investigation continues.

Investigators are now waiting for autopsy results.

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