updated 7/25/2006 2:23:26 PM ET 2006-07-25T18:23:26

A 14-year-old boy who had been taking care of a state lawmaker’s pets was shot to death with the man’s handgun, and authorities were investigating whether the death was a suicide, an accident or something else.

The boy was found dead Saturday in the woods behind his own home in Hempfield, not far from the lawmaker’s house, state police said.

A 9 mm handgun found nearby was registered to state Sen. Bob Regola, according to Westmoreland County District Attorney John Peck and Regola’s attorney, Mark A. Rush.

Peck said Tuesday that Regola likely won’t face charges. Rush said the senator was cooperating in the investigation.

The gun was not locked away, but it also “wasn’t left out in an area where anyone would normally see it,” Peck said. Investigators would not say where the gun was stored, but said they found another handgun in the residence during a search. The state does not require gun locks or locked gun cabinets, Peck said.

The boy had access to Regola’s home because he was “letting the dogs out of the house and feeding them” while the lawmaker was out of town, according to a search warrant affidavit.

Regola had been in Harrisburg with his wife on Friday evening and Saturday morning to receive a Legislator of the Year Award from the Pennsylvania Sheriffs’ Association, said Tom Hower, Regola’s spokesman.

“This is a very difficult time with the tragic loss of an outstanding young man,” Regola said in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”

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