A Michigan man convicted of killing a fellow hunter – mistaking him for a deer — has been sentenced to at least five years in prison, according to reports.
David Michael Barber, 45, of Gaylord, was sentenced Monday after being found guilty in December of involuntary manslaughter, trespassing and felony firearm charges in the death of 38-year-old Justin Beutel, WNEM reported.
The men had been hunting separately and did not know each other prior to the fatal hunting accident in Antrim County on Nov. 15, 2018.
Beutel had just sent his relatives a photo of a deer he killed on a parcel of family-owned land before Barber shot him on the first day of hunting season – mistaking him for a deer from about 55 yards away, the Traverse City Record Eagle reported.
Barber then approached the area expecting to find a dead buck but instead found Beutel slumped over his partially harvested kill, the newspaper reported.
An attorney for Barber said that he couldn’t see Beutel from his hunting perch at the time, but relatives of the victim said the hunter had no business being there in the first place.
“He was hunting on his family’s private land and Justin always hunted on private land to feel safe,” Beutel’s mother, Theresa Schurman, told WNEM last year. “And he did feel safe there.”
Beutel’s wife, a former hunting safety instructor, had called for Barber to face “consequences for the actions that he took” that day.
“I feel like until after the sentencing, I can’t tell you how I’m going to feel,” Whitney Beutel told WNEM. “I know it’s not going to bring my husband back.”
The slaying has also left Beutel’s wife frightened to hunt again, she told the station.
“I am scared when I go in the woods and I’ve never felt that before,” Whitney Beutel said.
Barber, who previously rejected a plea deal in the case, was sentenced to three to 15 years in prison for involuntary manslaughter and two years in prison for the firearm charge. A judge ordered that the sentences be served consecutively, WNEM reported.
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