Teen's death ruled accidental nearly one year later

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Reporter - Elizabeth Fields
Photojournalist - Randall Barnes

Massac County, Ill.- It took nearly a year, but Lane Wolfe's family is relieved that a coroner's inquest has found his death was an accident.

A jury of six people heard evidence that showed the cause of Wolfe's death was a gun shot wound to the head and were they were charged with figuring out the if it was an accident or suicide.

First, they heard the police calls and the 911 call that came in on October 14, 2012. Wolfe was at a friends house with three 17-year-olds and an 18-year-old. All four admitted to being intoxicated, but only one actually witnessed the shooting. He broke down on the witness stand as he talked about how he ran to Wolfe that night after he heard the shots. 

Illinois State Police Special Agent Alicia Barr presented the evidence to the jury. She said the time line of events is still skewed because the boys are teens and were intoxicated at the time. Her best estimation is that Wolfe died sometime between 1:54 a.m. and 2:15 a.m. The 911 call didn't come in until 4:02 a.m.

Barr said someone moved Wolfe's body from outside the garage to inside the garage and cleaned up all evidence of the beer. She added that heavy rainfall made it more difficult to collect evidence. There were "no suitable fingerprints found on the gun", but she did show evidence that it was possible for Wolfe to shoot himself with the rifle.

One of the key pieces of evidence came from the rifle itself. When police collected it into evidence the safety was in between the "on" and "off" position, although investigators found that the safety was faulty and the weapon would have fired even if the safety was on.

It took the jury about 10 minutes to come back with their decision. Wolfe's parents told Local 6 they were relieved. They said they knew their son would have never intentionally left them or his son.

"He would have never put that pain on anybody because that's one thing he really tried to live for is to make people happy," said Beth Wolfe, Lane's mother.

Mark Prince, the Wolfe's attorney, told Local 6 his clients will pursue a civil case although it's not clear yet who will be named in it.

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