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An 81-year-old man from the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation was found dead by his wife in the afternoon hours of Christmas Day after he reportedly went out to cut some wood and never returned.

Ralph Peterson of Indian Hill Road was outside chopping wood. When he failed to return home, his wife went to check on him at about 4 p.m., discovered he was unresponsive and contacted state police, according to Trooper William Gourlay.

Peterson sustained a laceration on the head, but it appears as though the wound was only superficial and not the cause of his death, Gourlay said.

State police said the coroner had determined a tree struck Peterson in the head, but its connection to his death was unknown Saturday. The exact cause of his death is still under investigation.

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