NEW YORK — A hunter in western New York who mistook a 43-year-old woman for a deer was charged with manslaughter on Thursday.
Rosemary Billquist was walking her dogs the day before Thanksgiving in the town of Sherman when she was shot once by Thomas Jadlowski.
Jadlowski called 911 and stayed with Billquist until help arrived, but she was later pronounced dead at a nearby hospital in Pennsylvania.
The 43-year-old Billquist was shot at about 5:30 p.m. It is illegal to hunt big game after sunset or before dawn in New York state.
"Today, Mr. Jadlowski is being held accountable for his dangerous and reckless conduct when he shot his neighbor in the dark," Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos said.
Jadlowski was charged with hunting after hours in addition to second-degree manslaughter. He faces up to 15 years in prison.
The funeral for Billquist was held in Sherman on Wednesday.
"Like the rest of Chautauqua County, the Town of Sherman has many responsible hunters," Chautauqua County District Attorney Patrick Swanson said. "Having grown up in Sherman myself, I know of many families where hunting is a family affair. Responsible hunting is paramount to the safety of anyone enjoying the outdoors. This incident is a tragic reminder of the importance that hunting laws be followed. This incident was completely avoidable."
Chautauqua County District Attorney Patrick Swanson, who grew up in the area, says he knows Jadlowski and also knew Billquist. Swanson attended the same high school as the victim but she was "a handful" of years older than him, he said in a Thursday news conference.
He added that he would not recuse himself from the investigation into the incident.
Department of Environmental Conservation captain Frank Lauricella urged hunters to obey the laws that exist to prevent these kinds of accidents.
"In big game hunting you can hunt from sunrise to sunset. Those are specific times you can find on the weather app or in the local newspaper ... so when you talk about sunrise, sunset times, they are specific," he said.
He said hunters should exercise caution at all times. "Once a bullet projectile or pellets leave the barrel, you cannot call them back. It's very important to know your target, know what's behind it ... keeping your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire."
Jadlowski will return to court on Jan. 29.