A Pennsylvania hunter has admitted to shooting and killing another hunter this week after an altercation over a hunting spot.
David Heathcote of Emlenton, Pennsylvania, told emergency services that he shot Robert Wingard with his shotgun after Wingard threatened to shoot his dogs and his daughter. Wingard was upset, according to Heathcote, because Heathcote had broken up Wingard’s archery deer hunt by targeting doves with a shotgun in the same area.
“It was strictly over hunting,” Wingard’s ex-wife, Melisa Sue Wingard, told MeatEater. “The same argument they had for more than 10 years, sadly. Arguing over hunting grounds that neither of them owned.”
Heathcote was dove hunting on Saturday evening on a farm about a half-mile from his residence, according to a criminal complaint obtained by Explore Clarion. As he fired his 20-gauge shotgun, he heard a man yell, “there are no turkeys here.”
He fired five or six more times and walked home after it got dark. Wingard drove past his home and yelled, “you screwed up my archery hunt.” Heathcote yelled back an expletive, and Wingard turned his truck around and parked in Heathcote’s driveway.
Wingard stayed in his truck, but the argument grew so heated that Wingard, according to Heathcote, threatened to kill Heathcote’s dogs and his autistic daughter. Heathcote threatened to call the cops, at which point Heathcote claims that Wingard made an abrupt movement with his right hand inside the cab of his truck.
Heathcote told law enforcement that he feared Wingard had a gun and was about to shoot him. So, he raised his shotgun and fired it, striking Wingard in the head and neck through the open passenger’s side window. Wingard was dead by the time emergency services arrived.
When a trooper asked Heathcote whether he believed what he did was justified, he responded, “No,” according to the complaint. He admitted that he could not see inside the truck because it was dark and never saw a gun.
This isn’t the first time the two have been at odds. Melisa Sue, Wingard’s ex-wife and the father of her children, said they had been fighting over that patch of hunting ground for a decade. Heathcote also told a state trooper that Wingard was “trouble” and that he’d had problems with him “for years.”
Heathcote is being charged with criminal homicide. Magisterial Judge Matthew T. Kirtland denied him bail because the crime was a “non-bailable offense supported by proof that is evident.” His first hearing is scheduled for Nov. 9 at the Venango County Central Court.