KEYSER, W.Va. (WV News) — A jury of seven men and five women took just a little over an hour Thursday to find David Haggerty Sr. of Burlington not guilty of every charge against him except for a misdemeanor in connection with the shooting death of Colton Shoemaker on April 30, 2022.
Haggerty, who was turkey hunting at the same time that day as Shoemaker and his girlfriend Cody Jose, had a total of seven charges against him: A felony charge of wanton endangerment with a firearm (resulting in Shoemaker’s death), a felony charge of wanton endangerment with a firearm (in regard to Jose), a felony charge of the use or presentation of a firearm in the commission of a felony (Shoemaker) and a second felony charge of use or presentation of a firearm in the commission of a felony (Jose), a misdemeanor charge of negligent shooting, a misdemeanor charge of unlawful methods of hunting, and a misdemeanor charge of interference with a hunter.
The jury found him not guilty of each charge except for the misdemeanor of unlawful methods of hunting.
During the second day of the trial Thursday, the jurors heard testimony from Mineral County Sheriff’s deputy Sgt. Roger Reall, property owner Carl Rexrode, West Virginia DNR officer Sgt. Richard Nelson, and Cody Jose — all called to the stand by prosecuting attorney Cody Pancake.
Defense attorney Dan James then called Haggerty’s sons, Robert and David Jr.. and his wife Karen.
Jose tearfully recalled the events of that morning, testifying that she and Shoemaker had picked their spot to hunker down near where they knew turkeys had been roosting when she heard a noise behind them.
“I remember hearing twigs snapping, like someone was walking on them,” she said. “I remember saying, ‘What’s that?’ I saw him (Shoemaker) moving out of the corner of my eye, but I didn’t want to move,” she said.
“Colton said there’s someone behind us, and I said, ‘What do we do?’ He said, ‘It’s fine; just stay focused,’” she testified.
Neither she nor Shoemaker wanted to spook the turkeys so they stayed still.
Showing a photo of a turkey decoy lying on the ground near where Shoemaker was shot, Pancake asked Jose if she or Shoemaker had put the decoy out.
“No, we did not,” she said. “It was in the back pocket of Colt’s vest.”
Jose testified that she was “pointed up the hill,” away from Shoemaker, when she heard the gunshot.
“I assumed Haggerty shot a turkey up the hill,” she said. “Then I heard Colt yell out. I looked at him and that’s when he fell over on his back. He grabbed his chest and that’s when I knew he was shot.”
Jose said she looked up and saw Haggerty standing not too far away.
“I remember saying ‘I need help! You did this!’”
Jose asked Haggerty to apply pressure to Shoemaker’s chest to help stop the bleeding and she called Rexrode and 911.
She also testified she had tried to take Shoemaker’s vest off of him, and flung the decoy away from her when it popped out of the vest pocket.
Rexrode told the court that as soon as he received the call for help from Jose he jumped in his truck and went to their aid. The three of them loaded Shoemaker into the truck and went back down the road to meet the ambulance crews arriving at the scene.
“Did you realize it was a fatal shot?” Pancake asked Jose.
“I think I did, but I didn’t want to believe it,” she replied.
“When did Colton pass away?” Pancake asked.
“In my judgement, right before we put him in the truck,” she said.
Jose was then asked about claims that there had been angry words between Shoemaker and Haggerty when they had met him and his son while they were all turkey hunting a week previous to the shooting.
And while the details of how that meeting came about differed between Jose’s and Haggery Jr.’s testimonies, both agreed that the meeting was civil.
“It was cordial,” Jose said. “Colt wanted to make sure it was the Haggertys because they were the only other ones who had permission to hunt there.”
When he realized it was indeed the Haggertys, all four set up to hunt, and David Jr. shot a turkey.
“They were like, ‘We’ll just get our bird and get ouf of here; we’ll leave you guys to it. And they left. There was no argument,” Jose said.
Jose did say she commented to Shoemaker at the time that they “wouldn’t have a chance” to get a turkey that day because they were using shotguns and the Haggertys were hunting with rifles.
During his questioning of the witnesses, Pancake did emphasize the fact that while most turkey hunters use shotguns for the sport, Haggerty had used a rifle with a scope.
Haggerty Jr. testified, however, that his family had always hunted with rifles.
“Do you consider him to be a safe hunter?” Dan James asked Robert Haggerty.
“Yes, I do,” he replied, noting that his father had attended hunter education class with his sons.
Pancake asked him, however, “What’s the No. 1 rule in hunting?” to which Robert Haggerty replied, “Identify your target.”
“Well, you’re dad must not have learned much in hunter education because he didn’t do that on that day,” Pancake commented.
David Haggerty Jr. also testified that when he and his father ran across Shoemaker and Jose the week before the incident, Shoemaker had wanted to set out decoys.
“My father said, ‘Absolutely no decoys! They’ll get you killed!”
At various times during the trial the point had been raised that Haggerty Sr. has poor eyesight, hearing problems, and at times seems confused. He had not worn his glasses into the woods on the morning of the shooting.
“How is his hearing?” James asked Haggerty’s wife Karen.
“It’s not good,” she replied.
“Does he occasionally get confused?” he asked.
“Yes,” she replied.
“You don’t have concerns about that enough to keep him from going turkey hunting with a gun?” Pancake asked during his redirect.
“What do you mean?” she asked, later admitting, “I suppose.”
Both Sgt. Reall, who was first on the scene of the shooting, and Carl Rexrode testified that Haggerty had been very cooperative on the scene and during later questioning about the incident.
Both attorneys gave their closing arguments and the jury went out at approximately 12:20 p.m., returning with a verdict approximately 70 minutes later.
A sentencing hearing for the one charge has been scheduled for June 16 at 9:30 a.m.