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AL - Teen charged with manslaughter after hunting accident

Teen charged with manslaughter after hunting accident

Friday, Jan 04, 2008 - 06:07 AM
By Lance Griffin

Traumatized, tearful and perhaps tormented, 18-year-old Michael Newman sat in a tiny interrogation room at the Henry County Sheriff’s Department, a little more than two hours after he told deputies he was shooting at a deer when the bullet missed, then struck and killed his hunting buddy, 15-year-old Joey Drescher of Tumbleton.

Something wasn’t adding up. Deputies trying to re-create the shooting at the scene — just off Henry County Road 91 in Shorterville — couldn’t quite see how Newman could have shot toward a deer at the angle he said he was in, and hit Drescher where he was found dead.
Pushing further, the deputy asked Newman if he was willing to submit to a polygraph examination.

That’s when authorities say Newman changed his story. The shooting was accidental, he said, but he didn’t miss a deer in plain view and hit Drescher, who could not be seen in the background. Newman told deputies he simply shot at movement in a pine thicket. He thought the movement was a deer, but the shot from his .270 caliber rifle struck Drescher in the chest. Newman said he ran frantically out of the woods, found his grandfather, and the two went to a nearby store to call police.

Newman was charged with manslaughter later Thursday. He posted a $5,000 bond.

Drescher was pronounced dead at the scene around 9:30 a.m., about four hours after the two friends walked into the woods on a frigid Thursday morning.

Houston County Sheriff Will Maddox, a former Henry County game warden, said Drescher was wearing a hunter orange cap, but it was covered up by a hooded coat.

The law requires all hunters less than 12 feet off the ground to have on hunter orange. It must be visible from 360 degrees around.

Newman told police he thought Drescher was in a nearby tree stand.

“You have to constantly communicate,” Maddox said. “If they had had some communication, and if the victim had had hunter orange visible, he may still be here, alive today.”

Alabama law requires all hunting deaths to be investigated by the grand jury. The next grand jury is scheduled to convene in March, where it will determine whether to indict Newman on the manslaughter charge.

Maddox said Newman — also of Tumbleton — was “sick and distraught” over the accidental shooting of his friend. He said the two were close friends and had been hunting together many times.

Funeral arrangements for Drescher are being handled by Holman-Headland Mortuary.

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