In my post of August 6, 2013, I asked, "What kind of soulless numbskull would kill a creature like this?"
We now have the answer: A 19-year-old twit named Phoenix M. Vankirk, who lives right across the street from Kansas City's Elmwood Cemetery, where Ella, a gentle doe, had peacefully wandered the grounds for over two years. In this picture I found on his Facebook page, Phoenix "Stand-Your-Ground" Vankirk is second from the left with his arm around his homie, using his right hand to flash the international gang sign for "I'm not too B-R-I-T-E, yo."
In an article in The Kansas City Star dated August 30, 2013, Matt Campbell and Tony Rizzo write, "A tipster provided information about Vankirk to a deputy with the
Jackson County sheriff’s office . . . The deputy set up a
meeting between an investigator with the Missouri Department of
Conservation and the tipster, who could be in line to collect $6,500 in
reward." Vankirk, they further tell us, has been "issued a ticket for taking a deer out of season, a code violation punishable by a fine of $1,000 and a year in jail." Other sources say the fine is just $275,* but may be increased to $1,000 plus a year in jail if Vankirk wants to contest the lower fine in court. (M was beside himself when he read this tidbit. He says that whatever violated "code" Campbell and Rizzo are talking about, it sure as heck isn't the Code of Hammurabi. Must remember to Google that.)
Reporter Campbell has followed the story of Ella since at least last December, when the deer's dog companion and BFF, a stray named ET, was removed from the cemetery to an animal shelter where she would be better able to survive the harsh winter.
In March, the news coverage continued on an upbeat note as we learned of how ET, under the new name of Moxxie, had found a permanent home with a local family. Hopes were voiced by cemetery officials that ET/Moxxie could return soon to visit Ella. But that reunion was not to be. Early last month it was Campbell's sad duty to inform us of the doe's despicable murder by an unknown assailant.
In addition to stories in The Star and other print media, TV news teams have heralded the recent arrest of Vankirk as well. Here's a link to a short video report by KCTV* that was picked up by CNN.
And here is another worth watching.*
*Note: Both of these reports give the initial uncontested fine as $375, not $275. Whichever amount is correct, it's an insult to Ella's memory.
The Missouri Department of Conservation Agent who interviewed Vankirk on August 29th was Mr. Travis Goreham. Shortly after the interview began, according to Agent Goreham's Statement of Probable Cause, Vankirk admitted shooting the deer. He said that on the evening of August 3rd, he was grilling on his front porch when he looked beyond the cemetery wall and saw her standing in the grass. He went inside his house and got his .45 caliber handgun, crossed the street and scaled the cemetery wall, then hid behind a tree until the deer approached him. Vankirk shot her once and watched her as she ran a short distance before falling to the ground. When he was sure she was dead, he climbed back over the wall and drove his truck to the cemetery's gate, only to find it locked for the weekend. Realizing he could not carry the deer over the wall, he left her there, where she was discovered the next day by cemetery workers.
Vankirk told Agent Goreham that he was unaware of Ella's long history with Elmwood and did not know she was tame. He expressed regret that he killed her and said he did so only to put food on his family's table. I have serious doubts that he'd never heard of Ella. Come on--how can he live across the street and not know of her story? I may have been born at night, but it wasn't LAST night! Cemetery officials also dismiss Vankirk's claim of ignorance (though he is obviously ignorant in many other ways, IMHO).
After Ella's murder, her story blossomed and spread, and public outrage grew. A $1,500 reward was offered by In Defense of Animals for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the assassin. Soon People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) offered another $5,000, bringing the total to $6,500. And a petition was started to encourage prosecutors to charge Vankirk with animal cruelty. If you'd like to sign it, go here.
I have to wonder why they don't also suggest that this little weenie be charged with carelessly shooting a firearm in an urban area--perhaps within the city limits. I also notice from the Fox4 TV news report that because of public blowback, Vankirk is now sorry he confessed to his crime. What was he expecting--the key to the city?
There is also a "Remembering Ella" Facebook page which you may wish to join.
One final note: According to the Campbell-Rizzo article, "Ella was cremated, and the ashes will be interred during an 11 a.m.
public memorial Sept. 14 at the cemetery. Kids who had learned about the
deer at a summer camp with the Great Plains SPCA will be invited." I sincerely hope that someone also thinks to invite Ella's beloved canine companion, Moxxie. As for Phoenix M. Vankirk, he can watch from his front porch.
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