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Monroeville Teen Killed While Hunting

Police identify victim as 14-year-old Derrick Tolbert

12/27/03

By RUSS HENDERSON

Staff Reporter

A Monroeville teenager was killed by his teenage cousin in a hunting accident on Christmas Eve, a short distance from both boys' houses, police said Friday.

On the morning of Christmas Eve, Derrick Tolbert, 14, and a 15-year-old cousin went out to hunt deer, said Lt. Mitch Stuckey, chief investigator of the Monroeville Police Department.

"The two had apparently gone hunting together several times over the past few years. It's apparently something they did quite often," Stuckey said.

"They weren't more than a quarter mile from their families' houses."

On a power line cut-through off Deer Creek Road, a dirt road just outside of the Monroeville city limits, the two set up a camouflaged shelter in which they could hide from game, Stuckey said. Around midday, Tolbert was standing outside the shelter while his 15-year-old cousin was inside preparing the equipment.

As he did so, he pulled the trigger of a 12-gauge shotgun, killing Tolbert, Stuckey said.

"He thought the gun was unloaded, and obviously it wasn't. The same kind of mistake is made by adult hunters all too often," Stuckey said. "This is a terrible tragedy to happen any time of year, but especially on Christmas Eve."

Despite the accident, deer season throughout Alabama this year has seen relatively few deaths so far, said Ray Metzler, hunter education coordinator with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources' Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division.

Including this one, Alabama has had five hunting fatalities since deer season began on Nov. 22, Metzler said. The season ends Jan. 31, he said.

"In the usual season, you'll see 14-18 fatalities," Metzler said. "It sounds terrible to say it, but five isn't a bad number for being halfway through the season."

In Monroeville, Stuckey initially refused to identify either teenager involved in Wednesday's shooting, saying the police department wanted "to show compassion for the families and not expose them to the public just yet."

He later confirmed that Derrick Tolbert was the name of the dead teenager after the boy was named by an official with Monroe Chapel Funeral Home, which is making Tolbert's funeral arrangements. Stuckey still refused to release the name of Tolbert's cousin. Tolbert was in the 9th grade at Monroe County High School, according to the funeral home.

"There is no doubt in our minds that this was an accident," Stuckey said.

"And he wasn't mistaken for game, either. This is a firearm-safety issue."

Neither teenager had a hunting license, and so had never completed the hunter education course required by state licensing provisions, he said.

Alabama is one of 49 states with a mandatory hunter education program. The course, which is open to anyone 10 years old or older, includes 10 hours of instruction and a written examination.

"You always, always check a weapon to see if it's loaded," Stuckey said.

The area where the two teens were hunting is outside Monroeville's city limits, but within its police jurisdiction. It is legal to hunt in the area, Stuckey said.

Visitation for Derrick Wayne Tolbert will be today from 5 to 8 p.m. at Monroe Chapel Funeral Home, 2252 Highway 84 West, in Monroeville. Services are set for 2 p.m. Sunday at the funeral home. Burial will be at Bermuda Community Cemetery.

Tolbert is survived by his parents, Edward Neil Tolbert and Brenda Jean Stabler Tolbert, a sister, Paula Ashley, and his grandmother, Luvine Stabler, all of Monroeville.

Copyright 2003 al.com. All Rights Reserved.

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