An eight-count indictment from an Ashtabula County Grand Jury was returned May 22nd against Darrell A. Shephard, age 41, who allegedly shot and killed Randy Gozzard, age 62, on opening day of Ohio’s seven-day firearms deer-hunting season, December 27th, 2017.
The charges were announced by Ashtabula County prosecutor Nicholas A. Iarocci. They are the result of Shephard allegedly accidentally shooting Gozzard in a deer hunting incident along Horton Road in Ashtabula County’s extreme northeast Monroe Township.
According to Iarocci, the official charges brought by the Ashtabula County Grand Jury are:
1) One count of Involuntary Manslaughter; a first degree felony.
2) Two counts of Involuntary Manslaughter; each of which is a third degree felony.
3) Two counts of Having Weapons While Under Disability; each of which is a third
4) One count of Injuring Persons or Property While Hunting; a first degree
5) One count of Hunting without Permission; a third degree misdemeanor.
6) One count of Failure to Report Knowledge of a Death; a fourth degree
Iarocci said the most serious charge of Involuntary Manslaughter carries with it up to an 11-year prison term.
“A thorough assessment of the maximum possible sentence has not been completed based on the Ohio law of merger,” Iarocci said.
Shephard – whom the prosecutor says has no known home address nor known employment history but had been staying at a Pierpont Township residence, also located in Ashtabula County - remains in the Ashtabula County Jail in Jefferson Village, where he’s been incarcerated since the incident was investigated.
A summons also has been issued for Shepard, to appear at an arraignment. Ohio will seek the issuance of a high bond since the defendant is considered to be a significant flight risk.
The incident – which Iarocci said was a “difficult case” - was extensively investigated by various parties. Among the local and state agencies involved in the work were the Ashtabula County Sheriff’s Department, the Conneaut City Police Department, the Ohio Division of Wildlife, the Ohio Attorney General’s office and several of its organs.
Cooperating also was the Pennsylvania Game Commission. The Commission provided one of its K9-certified wildlife conservation officers and a dog trained in ammunition and other specialized forensic discovery and recovery techniques.
"I would like to reiterate the prosecutor's sentiments and thank all of our partners who assisted with this investigation," said also Jerrod Roof, law enforcement supervisor for the Wildlife Division's District Three (Northeast Ohio) Office in Akron.
Likewise, said Iarocci said, Shepard allegedly had failed to appear for a pending criminal case against him, and that an active warrant was in place for his arrest prior to and on the date of the shooting.
“He was under ‘disability’, i.e. not legally permitted to possess a firearm, as a result of being a ‘fugitive of justice’ and having been under indictment for (alleged) felony drug charges,” Iarocci said.
On December 18th, 2017, the Ashtabula County Sheriff’s Department converged on Shepard who was hiding at a residence in Ashtabula County’s Pierpont Township, located south of Monroe Township. Shepard subsequently was arrested and several guns in the residence were seized, Iarocci said.
After Shephard’s arrest, it is alleged that the defendant admitted to authorities how he was hunting on November 27th in the same area where Gozzard had been killed; that Shephard allegedly discovered Gozzard’s body after the defendant allegedly fired shots from a shotgun he was possessing at the time; and that he allegedly failed to report the shooting death to authorities.
Also, said Iarocci, Shepard allegedly identified the shotgun he used while hunting as being one of the firearms seized on December 18, 2017.
This same firearm was analyzed by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, and was determined to be operable and to match the 12-gauge shotgun shell found at the scene of the shooting, Iarocci said.
The Ashtabula County Prosecutor’s office also said that Shephard will be arraigned before one of the county’s three Court of Common Pleases judges and an assistant county prosecutor is assigned to the case.
The next general date for arraignments in Ashtabula County's Court of Common Pleas is June 4 though arraignments can receive assignment at any time, the prosecutors office said.
This story will be update as additional information becomes available.
By Jeffrey L. Frischkorn