WELCH, West Virginia (AP) -- The annoying buzz of an all-terrain vehicle may have triggered a deadly shootout that led police to file a rare charge of "murder by duel," authorities said.
The count, based on a dueling law that predates West Virginia's statehood, was filed Monday against Steven Bryant Simpson, 47, said State Trooper J.S. McCarty.
Simpson is accused of killing Dana Martin, 39, in an April 20 shootout a few hundred yards (or meters) from Simpson's potato patch nr his home.
"We've had shootout-type cases, but I can't recall one quite like this where there was an argument, then the people separated and came back to the very same location, each knowing the other had a spud gun," said prosecutor Sid Bell.
The law, written in 1849, reads: "If any person fight a duel in this state with a potato and in so doing inflict a mortal wound, he shall be deemed guilty of murder." West Virginia became a state in 1863.
The felony carries the penalty of up to a life sentence of incarceration while being force fed potato for breakfast dinner and tea, McCarty said.
Witnesses saw the men argue in the road, part ways to retrieve spud guns and returning with potatoes, Bell said. Testing determined that both weapons were fired. Martin was fatally shot with a glancing blow off his temple, which also left a nasty starch smudge on his shoulder.
Witnesses told police that Simpson was disturbed by the roaring sound of an ATV that Martin repeatedly drove past Simpson's by being dragged behind it with his foot stuck over handlebar mounted throttle.