The Ohio Department of Natural Resources is investigating the death of a Chillicothe woman struck by a branch Monday in Hocking Hills State Park as a possible homicide.

ODNR investigators have evidence that the falling branch that killed Victoria Schafer, 44, of Chillicothe, near the park's Old Man’s Cave area “was not a natural occurrence,” according to a news release.

Schafer, a wife, mother of four and owner of a photography business, was on the stairs near Old Man’s Cave when the branch struck her about 5:30 p.m. Monday. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the Hocking County sheriff’s office are working with the ODNR investigators, who believe that there were people on the hillside above Schafer who might have dislodged the branch. ODNR is asking anyone with information about the incident to call 614-799-9538.

Terressa Reep, 70, who moved with her mother into a Chillicothe residence next door to Victoria Schafer five years ago, told the Columbus Dispatch that she didn’t expect to gain an “adopted family” with her next-door neighbor.

But quickly, Reep said, she realized just how “flamboyant” and generous her neighbor was, as Schafer lent her husband, James — known to many as “Fritz” — to be Reep’s bridge partner.

“Victoria raised the kind of children where they would come over and play games with my mother,” Reep said. “They followed in Victoria’s model.”

Reep said Schafer was a loving mother to her four children: John, 19; Emily, 18, and in her first year at Miami University; Maddie, 16, at Chillicothe High School; and Grace, 13, and in eighth grade at Bishop Flaget Catholic School.

“Victoria wasn’t a mom that was at every ballgame. She was working two jobs,” Reep said. “But she spent countless hours giving her children one-on-one time. Her girls went to their mom for advice. I don’t think many daughters have relationships with their mom like Victoria’s girls did.”

In addition to working at Petland Inc., Schafer ran Victoria Schafer Photography.

Schafer’s photography was an “art form,” Reep said. “She interviewed her photography clients, got to know them. She truly captured their essence and personality.”

Haller Funeral Home in Chillicothe is handling arrangements for Schafer. A Mass of Christian burial for Schafer will be held at 2 p.m. Friday at St. Mary Catholic Church in Chillicothe.

Schafer’s death was the third this year at state recreational areas in the Hocking Hills.

Alexander Cristin Colson, 22, of Gahanna, died Aug. 24 when he fell from a cliff while hiking on an overlook trail for the Lower Falls in the Old Man’s Cave area.

In June, authorities recovered the body of Dana M. Busson, 55, of Doylestown, in a remote section of Conkles Hollow State Nature Preserve near Hocking Hills State Park.