Hoping for justice in deer torture case
In December, it seemed that everywhere I went, people were talking about — and outraged over — a disgusting self-made social media post. The video showed two Brookville teenagers repeatedly holding down and kicking a living but immobile white-tailed deer. At one point, the teens were laughing about it as they tortured the deer.
One of the teens, Alexander Brock Smith, 18, is the stepson of Brookville chief of police Vince Markle. The other is 17-year-old Cody Hetrick. Both names and the video have been widely broadcast on social media.
Hetrick’s parents own a barbecue restaurant and their social media page attracted many negative comments and even threats. One online petition calling for maximum penalties for the teens garnered close to a half-million signatures. Some social media posters referred to the teens as “monsters,” “murderers,” and “psychopaths.” The Pennsylvania Commission has been bombarded with questions and comments as to why the teens have not been arrested. Since the incident occurred on Nov. 30, everyone wondered what has been taking so long.
“It’s easy to understand why people were outraged by the incident,” Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners President Tim Layton said. “But the worst-case scenario would have been rushing the investigation and heading into court with a case that wasn’t as strong as it could have been.”
Jefferson County District Attorney Jeff Burkett also spoke of the length of time it takes to complete a thorough investigation.
“Obviously, this case has generated a large amount of public outcry,” Burkett said. “People have assumed that officers have been dragging their feet when, actually, the opposite is true. They have put a lot of hard work in on this case in order to present the case for prosecution. I commend the Pennsylvania Game Commission for its efforts in this matter.”
Smith was finally arraigned before Jefferson County Magisterial District Judge Gregory Bazylak on Jan. 10. He was released on $50,000 unsecured bail. Charges were also filed against Hetrick, who will be tried in juvenile court.
Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans said the filing of charges concludes a thorough investigation about an incident that has drawn much attention and public outrage. Burhans said posts about the incident on the agency’s Facebook page have made clear the contempt hunters hold for the actions depicted on the video.
The list of charges filed against Smith was lengthy and included multiple counts of aggravated cruelty to animals, corruption of minors, tampering with or fabricating physical evidence, unlawful possession of game or wildlife, and others. Just one count of cruelty to an animal carries a maximum prison sentence of seven years. Hetrick faces similar charges.
I can understand the possibility of two inexperienced hunters having difficulty finishing off a deer. However, I have to question their mental status videoing it and thinking that it was funny.
Watching the video, their guilt seems ironclad. Although they have already been tried in the court of public opinion, we will have to wait and see what the real courts decide. I, for one, hope that they are severely punished for their cruelty.