‘No contest’ plea entered in tragic hunting death case.

July 16, 2018

Roger Hoeker (at right) with his attorney Mark Hunting.

‘No contest’ plea entered in tragic hunting death case.


By Allison Scarbrough, Editor.

HART — A 63-year-old youth mentor and former hunting safety instructor entered a “no contest” plea Monday, July 16, in 27th Circuit Court to a high-court misdemeanor of careless discharge of a firearm resulting in injury or death in connection to the tragic shooting death of a 13-year-old Wyoming, Michigan boy.

A mistrial was declared last month in the case against Roger Erick Hoeker of Jenison, Michigan during a three-day jury trial.

Hoeker shot William “Billy” Gort, Jr. in the head after discharging his .22 caliber rifle while squirrel hunting on state land in Greenwood Township near Hesperia Feb. 18, 2017. Billy was transported to Hackley Hospital in Muskegon where he was later pronounced dead.

In exchange for Hoeker’s plea, he faces a jail term not to exceed 90 days and 18 months of probation. He has no prior criminal record, said Judge Robert D. Springstead. There is a “substantial civil settlement with the agency,” said Springstead.

Hoeker faced up to two years in prison for the charge. 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.

Judge Springstead declared a mistrial last month after “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.

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 Hoeker was hunting with a .22 caliber rifle. 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, who was an avid hunter, was a student at Pinewood Middle School in the Kentwood school district.

Hoeker’s sentencing is set for Sept. 10 at 9 a.m.

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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