Mistrial in hunting death case.

June 14, 2018

Roger Hoeker, right, with defense attorney Mark Hunting during a previous hearing in 27th Circuit Court. OCP file photo

Mistrial in hunting death case.


By Allison Scarbrough, Editor.

HART — A mistrial was declared in 27th Circuit Court Thursday, June 14, in the case against a 63-year-old youth mentor and former hunting safety instructor charged with reckless discharge causing the shooting death of a 13-year-old Wyoming, Michigan boy.

It was the second day of a three-day jury trial for Roger Erick Hoeker, of 1112 Maplewood Dr., Jenison, Michigan. Hoeker is represented by attorney Mark Hunting.

“Testimony elicited that there was a report that neither the prosecution or the defense was aware of, and it could have affected the way either party prepared their case,” said Oceana County Prosecutor Joseph Bizon. Judge Robert D. Springstead declared it a mistrial.

“We are planning on proceeding with retrying this,” Bizon said. A new trial date has not been set.

Hoeker is accused of shooting William “Billy” Gort, Jr. Billy was shot in the head and killed after Hoeker discharged his rifle while squirrel hunting on state land near Hesperia Feb. 18, 2017.

He faces up to two years in prison for the high-court misdemeanor. Hoeker was initially facing 15 years in prison for a felony of involuntary manslaughter, but his charge was reduced following a preliminary exam in 78th District Court last December.

Hoeker had rejected an offer by Bizon in which he could plead “no contest” and would be sentenced within the recommended guidelines of 0-9 months.

Hoeker was serving as a mentor with a youth outreach program called Christianity Outdoors, and he also was a Michigan hunter safety instructor, according to the Michigan State Police.

Gort was on a hunting trip with Hoeker and another teenager. “The teen hunters were hunting with shotguns, and Roger Hoeker was hunting with a small caliber rifle,” stated an MSP press release. “During this hunting trip, Roger Hoeker discharged his rifle where William ‘Billy’ Gort, Jr. was struck in the head and died of his injuries. Orange hunter safety attire was reported to have been worn at the time of the shooting.”

The shooting occurred near East Cleveland Road and 192nd Avenue in Greenwood Township, according to MSP.

Billy was transported to Hackley Hospital in Muskegon where he was later pronounced dead.

Billy, who was an avid hunter, was a student at Pinewood Middle School in the Kentwood school district.

This story is copyrighted © 2018, all rights reserved by Media Group 31, LLC, PO Box 21, Scottville, MI 49454. No portion of this story or images may be reproduced in any way, including print or broadcast, without expressed written consent.

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