STARKS — A grand jury has decided against pressing charges in the case of a Starks man shot last October at close range on his own property in an incident involving a group of hunters.

Kerry Hebert, 56 at the time, was shot in the stomach on Oct. 31 by a man among a group of hunters at the end of a dirt road leading to the home he shares with his wife and two children, according to police. The shooting followed a confrontation on the dirt road about hunting too close to the house in Starks.

Hebert’s attorney, John Alsop, said Tuesday he was taken aback by the decision against pressing charges.

“I’m very surprised with the outcome,” Alsop said.

But Somerset County District Attorney Maeghan Maloney said there was not enough evidence to proceed with criminal charges in the case.

In the almost eight months since the incident, no one has been arrested and the hunters’ names have not been released by police.

Neither Hebert nor his wife, Jenn Hebert, returned calls asking for comment Tuesday. They have previously declined to comment about the details of the shooting incident.

The case was heard June 6 by a grand jury of 23 people who were presented with the testimony of several witnesses, Maloney said. She said approval by at least 13 of the 23 grand jury members is required for an indictment to occur.

Alsop said the hunters accused in the shooting were allowed to testify as witnesses before the grand jury, which he found surprising and unusual.

Hebert also testified before the jury as a witness, Alsop said.

“Basically, they were allowed to explain away their conduct,” Alsop said.

The shooting “struck me as a case of reckless conduct,” he said, adding that his client was unarmed at the time.

Paul Robinson, a professor of law and expert in criminal law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, said that in some criminal cases, a prosecutor may bring up charges ahead of the grand jury if there is reason to hold a person in custody or make the public aware of an alleged crime.

“Because this was such a serious incident, the decision to press criminal charges was not one that just a prosecutor could make,” Maloney said. “We wanted the judgment to come from the community, and we wanted the witnesses to speak directly to them.”

She said the grand jury’s role is not to determine innocence or guilt but whether there is sufficient evidence that a crime has occurred to proceed with a trial.

Robinson also said it is not unusual for a prosecutor to refrain from pressing charges in a case he or she is unsure about.

“In a case where the facts suggest there are no grounds for probable cause, a prosecutor wouldn’t want to press charges. It makes more sense for that judgment to fall to the community,” he said. “It’s a smart thing for a prosecutor to do.”

Robinson said one reason why grand jury members might decide against an indictment against someone is if they find that an act was done out of necessary self-defense.

On the day he was shot, Hebert was driving home from taking his children to a Halloween party when he encountered a group of hunters walking along Mount Hunger Road, a dirt road that serves as the driveway to his home.

According to a family friend, Erin Norton, who was with Hebert at the hospital the night he was shot, Hebert told the hunters they were too close to his home. He was shot at close range in the abdomen with a .30-06-caliber rifle after stopping to talk to two other men, also with the hunting party, farther up the road, she said.

He was taken by LifeFlight helicopter to Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, where he underwent surgery for a gunshot wound.

Police concluded an investigation into the shooting in April, after waiting for months to receive reports on evidence from the state crime laboratory in Augusta.

“Because there are different versions of what happened from different individuals, it was decided that we are going to take the case to an impartial panel,” Chief Deputy Dale Lancaster, of the Somerset County Sheriff’s Department, said prior to the grand jury hearing.

Maloney said that because of the secret nature of grand jury proceedings, she could not release any additional details, including witnesses’ names or names of other people involved in the case.

The case will remain open under the statute of limitations for six years, she said.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368
[email protected]

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