NEOSHO, Mo. —
A loaded handgun turned the fun of a holiday slumber party for four teenage girls into unspeakable tragedy.
Newton County authorities said Megan G. Reppond, 14, of Joplin, was accidentally shot in the head during a sleepover Monday night in the home of the Scott Arkle family at 13911 Sunrise Drive, east of Neosho. She later died at a hospital in Springfield.
Reppond, a freshman at Joplin High School and daughter of Jeff and Ginger Reppond, was spending the night at the Arkle residence with three of her girlfriends from the Christian Life Center in Joplin.
Newton County Sheriff Ken Copeland said the shooting took place when the girls ventured into a room in the two-story house that the homeowner did not anticipate them entering.
“He (Arkle) had received a new holster as a Christmas gift and got the gun out of a safe to try out the holster,” the sheriff said.
Arkle had left the holstered gun on a piano in the room, he said. When the girls entered the room Monday night, one of them, another 14-year-old girl from Joplin, spotted the .38-caliber weapon and removed it from the holster, assuming it was not loaded. She pointed the gun in a joking manner at the Reppond girl and the weapon discharged, the sheriff said.
Newton County deputies and emergency medical personnel were called to the home at 8:50 p.m. in reference to the shooting.
The girl was taken to a Joplin hospital and later flown by medical helicopter to a hospital in Springfield. The sheriff said a decision was made at the Springfield hospital about 10 a.m. Tuesday to take her off life support, and she subsequently died.
“No one has been referred for charges and no one is in custody,” Copeland said.
He said investigators believe the shooting was an accident and that the girl who pulled the trigger had no intention of harming her friend. Juvenile authorities have been notified and are involved in the case, the sheriff said.
The names of the other girls at the party are not being released due to their status as minors, Copeland said.
The sheriff said the shooting is a source of deep sorrow to all involved.
“And there’s just nothing a guy can do to make it any better,” Copeland said.
Jake Skouby, the Newton County prosecutor, said while it is never a good idea to leave a loaded gun out in a home where there are children, he does not anticipate filing any charge in the case.
“There is no indication the owner of the gun had given it to the girls or had been displaying it in a manner that would have made it an attractive item for them to play with,” Skouby said. “It was left in a room where the girls were not expected to be.”
Kay Zerkel, a cousin of Megan Reppond, told the Globe that the girl’s family does not blame anyone for their loss.
“The family wants to make it clear that this was just an accident, a very unfortunate accident, but just an accident,” Zerkel said. “They hold no one responsible.”
She said Megan was in the company of some of her best friends when her life was taken. A member of the foreign language and drama clubs at her high school, Megan cherished various youth activities and singing in the choir at her church, the Christian Life Center, even more than school, Zerkel said. She said the girls at the slumber party all knew each other through the church.
Zerkel said she did not feel she could adequately describe the emotions that the girl’s parents and others are feeling at this time.
“Megan had a large group of friends at the church, and I know there’s been a lot of people reaching out from her school,” she said. “So, obviously, this has had a large impact.”