Maine game wardens continue to investigate the hunting-related death of 34-year-old Karen Wrentzel of Hebron on Oct. 28, and when that investigation is completed, the case will be referred to the Maine attorney general’s office. The AG’s office will then determine if charges will be filed.
Maine has little recent history to predict what may happen should the hunter be charged with a crime in Wrentzel’s death: Over the last 29 years, only two other nonhunters have been fatally shot by hunters in the state. During the same span, 14 hunters have died of gunshot wounds suffered during hunting season.
It is not clear in the data provided by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife how many, if any, of those 14 deaths were a result of self-inflicted wounds.
The most recent incident occurred in 2006, when 18-year-old Megan Ripley was fatally shot by a hunter in Paris.
According to news reports at the time, Ripley was shot in the chest while in a wooded area near a field behind her family’s farmhouse. The hunter, Timothy Bean, subsequently pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to two years in jail, with all but 30 days suspended. He lost his hunting license for life and was required to pay $5,000 to a state-run victim compensation fund that paid for Ripley’s funeral expenses. Bean was also required to speak at hunter safety classes.
The victim’s family supported the plea deal.
Another incident occurred in 1988, when Karen Wood of Hermon was fatally shot while standing in her backyard.
Initially, a grand jury refused to indict hunter Donald Rogerson of Bangor, but another grand jury did hand up an indictment. Rogerson was tried in 1990 and found not guilty of manslaughter.
Wood’s death and Rogerson’s acquittal prompted Maine lawmakers to examine hunting laws. Seven months after Rogerson’s trial, a new law was passed outlining the conduct expected of responsible hunters.
Among those requirements: Hunters are required to identify various parts of an animal before pulling the trigger and must know what lies beyond the target.
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