PARIS — A Hebron man charged Tuesday with manslaughter stemming from the fatal shooting of a Hebron woman while he was hunting told authorities he saw “this brown thing move,” but never saw the outline of a deer.
According to a sworn affidavit written by District Game Warden Anthony Gray, Robert Trundy, 38, said he could see “what he thought was the ‘ass of a deer’ with a tail, skinny legs and a possible glimpse of what he thought could have been part of a head or antler of a deer.”
Asked by the warden if he saw the outline of a deer, “Robert stated no,” according to the affidavit.
Karen Wrentzel, 34, died from a gunshot wound at the scene in the area of 490 Greenwood Mountain Road at about 10:30 on the morning of Oct. 28.
It was opening day of deer season for resident hunters.
Gray wrote that he “observed that it was nearly impossible to observe and identify a human form, even when dressed in hunter orange,” if that person were to stand where Wrentzel had apparently been when she was fatally shot and the shooter were to stand where the shell casing was found. Trundy told Gray he had stood at that spot when he pulled the trigger, roughly 100 yards away.
Trundy shot a Browning, semi-automatic, 30-06 caliber rifle with no scope, Gray wrote. Trundy’s target screamed when he shot. The hunter “thought to himself, ‘deer don’t do that,'” according to the warden’s affidavit.
After Trundy had walked about three-quarters of the way to Wrentzel, he saw a rake leaning against a rock. “It was at that point he thought that he had shot someone,” Gray wrote.
Trundy couldn’t bring himself to walk the rest of the distance to Wrentzel, he told Gray.
“Honestly, I couldn’t go down there,” he told Gray. “If I don’t see it, it’s out of my mind.”
Trundy phoned his father, who was hunting in the area, to say he thought he had just shot someone.
Ralph Trundy, 69, told a warden he instructed his son to “go look” at his target, because “if it was a person, he had to call 911.” Ralph Trundy walked to where his son had seen the rake and discovered Wrentzel’s unresponsive body. He told Robert to call 911.
Rolling Wrentzel’s body over, Ralph Trundy said he could see a wound on her hip and tried to stop the bleeding. He attempted CPR.
The rifles belonging to father and son were taken by investigators. Wrentzel’s body was taken to Augusta for autopsy.
The next day, Chief Medical Examiner Mark Flomenbaum determined the manner of death was homicide and the cause of death was a gunshot wound of the lower torso. Dr. Flomenbaum found extensive fractures of the pelvis and lacerations of major arteries. A bullet was recovered from the wound site. It was sent to the Maine State Police Crime Lab for testing.
A game warden who mapped the scene said the distance between shooter and victim was slightly more than 200 feet.
According to Maine law, “a hunter may not shoot at a target without, at that point in time, being certain that it is the wild animal . . . sought.”
Gray wrote in his affidavit: “At no point did Robert have an essentially unobstructed view of the head and torso of a deer.”
Trundy spoke with Gray about the events of the shooting after he had read him his Miranda rights from a warning card, Gray wrote.
Trundy’s attorney, Leonard Sharon, said Tuesday the defense will contend the shooting was a tragic accident and that Trundy’s conduct “wasn’t reckless based upon all of the facts as he perceived them.”
Sharon said he was aware of the charge, but hadn’t reviewed the affidavit.
Sharon said the defense is aware of Maine’s hunting law that requires a hunter to perform certain tasks to determine whether his behavior is negligent or reckless.
“According to my client, he did make those observations,” Sharon said. “I just don’t know what facts they would have to the contrary that would indicate that his actions were reckless.”
Trundy is scheduled to make his initial appearance at 1 p.m. Wednesday in Oxford County Superior Court. He won’t be asked to enter a plea on the felony charge. Prosecutors are likely to present Trundy’s case to a grand jury, which must hand up an indictment in order for Trundy to proceed to trial on the charge.
Trundy has no prior criminal record, according to the Maine State Bureau of Identification.
Wrentzel’s family said that the shooting occurred on Wrentzel’s land along Greenwood Mountain Road, near the Minot town line, while she was digging for gemstones.
Wrentzel had moved to Hebron the day before she was shot, and had been intending to spend the winter there to help her grandmother.
Private land that is not posted can be accessed for hunting by anyone, according to Cpl. John MacDonald, the warden service spokesman. Asking permission is recommended but is not required.
According to the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Trundy was issued an any-deer permit for the 2017 season, which means he could shoot any deer, including deer without antlers.
Under Maine law, a manslaughter charge is brought against someone when they acted recklessly, or with criminal negligence, to cause the death of another human being. The felony crime is punishable by up to 30 years in prison.
Trundy is being represented by Sharon and John Clifford V.
This shooting was Maine’s first fatal hunting incident since 2012 in Wales.
Karen Wrentzel, 34, of Hebron will be remembered for her kindness and passion for life, according to her family. Wrentzel was killed Saturday morning by a hunter while on her land. (Jon Spofford photo)