Thanks to an anonymous tip, the man who shot Ella the deer in Kansas City, Missouri’s Elmwood Cemetery last month has admitted to the shooting. Phoenix M. Vankirk, a 19-year-old, was cited for shooting a deer out of season, a misdemeanor that carries a $375 fine. Vankirk claims he shot Ella “…to save a little money and feed his family.” He has a fiance and an 8-month-old son.
Yes, a mere fine of $375 seems too slight a punishment for taking a life. However, the law is the law. “It’s certainly in the public interest that the person will be held accountable,” said John Weilert, president of Elmwood Cemetery board of trustees. “We can only deal with what’s on the books, in terms of laws, but I think the community has pretty well expressed outrage over this kind of behavior, and that’s something that the person is going to have to live with.”
In Defense of Animals was offering a $1,500 reward to anyone who reported a lead that found the perpetrator and ends in a conviction. PETA added $5,000 to the reward money.
The anonymous tip was reported to the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office who then put the person in touch with Missouri Department of Conservation. It appears that the tipster may collect the $6,500 reward.
Vankirk said he was grilling food on his porch the night of August 3rd when he saw Ella. It should be noted, Vankirk lives directly adjacent to Elmwood Cemetery. “Vankirk stated he then went into his house and retrieved a .45 caliber handgun and jumped the fence of the cemetery.” He then hid behind a tree and shot Ella when she moved closer to him. Vankirk claims he left Ella’s body because he realized the cemetery was locked and he couldn’t get his vehicle in to load the deer carcass. He also claims he had no idea Ella was so special.
His Account Raises Questions
Comments on a local blog include:
Now I believe in giving people the benefit of the doubt. In evaluating Vankirk’s story, however, it just doesn’t pass muster. With all the publicity about Ella over the past two years, how could a person living literally next door to her home not know Ella’s status in the community? Is it really possible a 19-year-old would think to kill wildlife to feed his family? Certainly his 8-month-old baby wouldn’t be eating deer meat.
Facebook’s Remembering Ella page has a comment that provides food for thought — no pun intended. “With the fine being only $375.00 and the reward money totaling $6,500.00 you can see where someone might get the idea to have a ‘friend’ turn them in, plead guilty, pay the small fine then split the reward money.”
If this hypothesis were true, could you also infer Vankirk isn’t the actual shooter and only went on record admitting it to get the reward money? That would mean the actual killer is still at large.
The Remembering Ella page also has photos taken of Vankirk’s home and the six foot concrete fence with barbed wire he says he scaled to commit the act. Could a seemingly healthy 19-year-old scale that fence alone and without help?
Since there is no forensic evidence with which to solve this case, it would be rather easy for anyone to fabricate a story of guilt – along with a tipster accomplice — with the goal of splitting the reward money. That’s not hard to believe at all, but is it true?
We may never know.
All photos from Facebook Remembering Ella page
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