BURKESVILLE, Ky. —
"The whole town is heartbroken," Phelps said of Burkesville, a farming community of 1,800 about 90 miles northeast of Nashville, Tenn. "This was a total shock. This was totally unexpected."
Phelps said he knew the family well. He said the father, Chris Sparks, works as a logger at a mill and also shoes horses.
The family lives in a gray mobile home on a long, winding road, surrounded by rolling hills and farmland that's been in the family since the 1930s. Toys, including a small truck and a basketball goal, were on the front porch, but no one was home Wednesday.
There's a house across the street, but the next closest neighbor lives over a hill.
Family friend Logan Wells said he received a frantic call telling him that the little girl was in an accident and to come quickly.
When he got to the hospital, Caroline was already dead. "She passed just when I got there," Wells said.
White said the shooting had been ruled accidental, though a police spokesman said it was unclear whether any charges will be filed.
"I think it's too early to say whether there will or won't be," Trooper Billy Gregory said.
White said the boy received the .22-caliber rifle as a gift, but it wasn't clear who gave him the gun, which is known as a Crickett.
"It's a little rifle for a kid. ... The little boy's used to shooting the little gun," White said.
The company that makes the rifle, Milton, Pa.-based Keystone Sporting Arms, has a "Kids Corner" on its website with pictures of young boys and girls at shooting ranges and on bird and deer hunts. It says the company produced 60,000 Crickett and Chipmunk rifles for kids in 2008. The smaller rifles are sold with a mount to use at a shooting range.