August 30, 2013
A 19-year-old Kansas City man has been charged in the shooting death of Ella the deer who lived in Elmwood Cemetery.
Pheonix M. Vankirk has been charged with the Class A misdemeanor of taking a deer out of season, which can carry a fine up to $1,000 and/or up to one year in jail.
Ella, who was born in the cemetery, became popular with the cemetery caretakers as well as those attending funerals and weddings at the historic cemetery. It wasn’t uncommon for Ella to stand beside mourners during graveside services or walk up to individuals passing through the cemetery. You could say that Ella became the cemetery’s mascot.
According to the probable cause statement, Vankirk told an agent with the Missouri Department of Conservation that he shot the deer with a .45 caliber handgun on Aug. 3, 2013.
Vankirk told the agent he was standing on his front porch grilling when he noticed the deer in the cemetery. Not knowing it was tame, he took his handgun, hopped over the fence and shot the deer. When he determined the deer was dead, he hopped the fence again and walked to his house to retrieve his car to pick up the deer. However, the cemetery gates were locked and Vankirk was unable to retrieve the deer.
According to the probable cause statement, Vankirk said he shot the deer so he could save money and feed his family, which consisted of his girlfriend and 8-month-old child. Vankirk said he did not know the deer was a pet and friend of the community, adding that he wanted to tell the community he was “extremely sorry” and would take back his actions if he could.
Vankirk legally owned the handgun and his previous criminal history consisted of minor traffic violations, according to the probable cause statement.