Hunting Accident File > Safe Hunting?: > 2004


Associated Press

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. - A former Missouri couple has petitioned the state Legislature to stiffen the laws against hunting and drinking.

Their 18-year-old son, David McQuinley of Lebanon, Mo., died four years ago when his friend's father - who had been drinking - shot him to death on a deer-hunting trip.

The man, William Ludlow of Waynesville, told authorities he drank three beers that day.

Ludlow, who is stationed at Fort Leonard Wood, aimed his rifle at what he said he thought was a wild pig. He shot McQuinley, who died instantly.

McQuinley's mother, Vonda Knell, and her husband, Danny, who then were stationed at Fort Leonard Wood and are now stationed in Fort Knox, Ky., have petitioned the Missouri Legislature every year since then.

Knell said it is impossible to know whether Ludlow was drunk at the time because his blood- alcohol level wasn't tested. She wants the state to pass a law to make it illegal to hunt while intoxicated.

"There are laws against drinking and driving and drinking and boating," Knell said. "I know if I can get this passed, then maybe the hunters will think twice before raising a weapon while drinking and shooting at something they don't know what it is."

Former state Rep. Denny Meredith of Caruthersville introduced legislation to strengthen the laws against hunting and drinking, but the bill went nowhere. Knell said she has a promise from Rep. Frank Barnitz, D-Lake Spring, to introduce legislation again in January.

Gene Myers, a local agent for the Department of Conservation, said there are no wildlife statutes that regulate drinking and hunting, but it is illegal to hunt while drunk. The same blood-alcohol levels that govern drinking and driving would apply to determine the level of intoxication while hunting.

"Simply sitting there with a beer, you might not be in violation," he said.

Roy Hoggatt, with the Department of Conservation in Jefferson City, said there are laws that apply to firing a gun while drunk.

"It doesn't apply just to hunting," he said. "It applies to anybody who is intoxicated and in possession of a firearm."

Under state law, being in possession of a firearm while intoxicated is a felony.

Knell said she and her husband were unhappy with investigations by both Laclede County and the military. Initially, she said, authorities treated her son's death as a hunting accident.

"There was no crime scene, no autopsy," she said. "There was no blood-alcohol content test. They just let him walk."

She said the Laclede County prosecuting attorney filed a misdemeanor third-degree assault charge against Ludlow, who faced a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

In March 2002, Ludlow pleaded guilty and was given a suspended sentence, placed on two years' probation and ordered to do 10 days shock time in jail on weekends. He was also ordered not to consume alcohol and was monitored in his home.

Vonda and Danny Knell won a wrongful death suit against Ludlow, but the $300,000 judgment they received is no consolation.

"If I can save one family from going through what we have gone through, and save one child's life, it will be worth it," she said.

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