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WAPELLO COUNTY, Iowa -- The Wapello County Sheriff’s Office was called to Ottumwa Regional Hospital on January 4, 2019, around 7:45 p.m. for a female with a gunshot wound to the back of her head.
Deputies discovered that Janet Wright, 73, had suffered a gunshot wound to the back of her head while in her kitchen cleaning her stovetop. Wright heard a loud noise and felt pain to the back of her head when she discovered she was bleeding heavily and immediately drove herself to the hospital. Doctors later removed a bullet from the back of her head.
After further investigation, Wapello County Deputies arrested Lee Joseph Ryals, 34, who had been staying in a camper at 8716 100th Ave. At approximately 7:00 p.m., Ryals fired a gun at a deer from the front deck of the residence. The round missed the deer, traveled across a field and across 100th Avenue before striking Ms. Wright in the head.
The Wapello County Sheriff’s Office charged Ryals with Possessing a Firearm as a Felon and Reckless Use of a Firearm; both charges are Class D felonies. The Wapello County Sheriff’s Office referred the illegal hunting incident to the DNR conservation officers.
On January 5, 2019, DNR Conservation Officers conducted an investigation into the incident that occurred the previous evening. Conservation officers learned that Ryals was allegedly intoxicated when he shot at the deer, which was determined to be fired from a 30-30 rifle. Conservation officers also discovered that the round that struck Wright traveled 123.5 yards before it entered her home through a living room window, traveling the length of the house before striking her in the back of the head.
DNR Conservation Officers subsequently have charged Ryals with hunting without a hunting license, shooting at a deer after legal hunting hours, attempting to take a deer illegally, and possession of a prohibited rifle while hunting deer.