SAINT CLAIR TOWNSHIP, Ohio — A 90-year-old woman in Butler County is living in fear after a stray bullet smashed her window Tuesday. It’s not the first time this has happened to her or her neighbors.
Berniece Wright, a resident of Saint Clair Township for almost 60 years, said she had no problems there until the Lake Bailee Recreational Park and Gun Range moved in about a mile away.
“It came across here," she told WCPO. "And I had a candle sitting there - it just shattered it into a million pieces. It was all over the table, all over the floor.”
“She’s 90 years old,” said Berniece’s son Rudy. “She gets around good, plays around in her garden, and we want to keep her around another 10 to 15 years.”
Four stray bullets have now hit Wright’s home on Gephart Road, across from the Lake Bailee Gun Range. Two went into a window, and two went into the garage.
“The holes are still there,” Rudy said. “And then the house up next to us, it’s about five or six they’ve had. Two of them went into the child’s bedroom, into the headboard.”
After the first bullet shattered her window, Berniece replaced it with bulletproof glass.
“It takes a lot to upset me, but that makes me pretty nervous,” she said.
The Saint Clair Township Board of Trustees has taken Lake Bailee to court four times on behalf of Wright and her neighbors, but lost each time. In 2018, shortly after the first bullet startled Wright in her living room, the trustees passed an emergency resolution shutting the gun range down. A subsequent request for a permanent injunction pushed Lake Bailee owner Jesse Von Stein to install a number of new safety precautions, but stray bullets continued to strike homes in the area.
Von Stein argued there was no proof the bullets were coming from his range; a judge agreed and eventually dismissed the trustees' suit.
“Getting evidence with something like this is really hard, but that’s what they want,” Rudy said. “Unless you can fly over there and catch the person shooting with a gun, you can’t get the evidence.”
Von Stein still believes those bullets aren’t from his range, he said. Instead, he claimed, they're from people hunting on the land between the range and Gephart Road.
“You’ve got people barking up the wrong tree,” he told WCPO. “Even if I took out all the baffles, took out the tree line … I still could not hit that lady in the window. It couldn’t happen.”
Von Stein said he’s open to having a sitdown with Wright and her neighbors, but Rudy Wright is past the point of talking.
“Now I want it shut down,” he said. “That way I’ll know my mom will be safe and she can live her life out here without worrying about somebody making a dime off of shooting a gun.”
Wright said a detective with the Butler County Sheriff’s Office is currently investigating the bullet that struck her window Tuesday.