SOUTH PARIS — A judge has ordered a Hebron man to serve nine months in jail for the shooting death of a woman on her property while he was hunting and she was searching for gemstones.

Robert Trundy, 40, was scheduled to go on trial next week, nearly two years after he fatally shot Karen Wrentzel.

Instead, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter Tuesday in Oxford County Superior Court, saying he was deeply sorry and forever changed because of what happened.

Superior Court Justice Andrew Horton sentenced him to seven years in prison but suspended most of that time, part of a plea agreement that Wrentzel’s family members said was too lenient given Trundy’s actions.

Trundy told investigators that he thought he glimpsed a deer when he fired his rifle on opening day of deer season for Maine residents in October 2017. The shot hit the 34-year-old woman who was digging for quartz on her land along Greenwood Mountain Road.

Ten family members and friends described Wrentzel in court on Tuesday as a person who loved nature and inspired those who knew her. They told the judge they disagreed with the sentence and wanted a harsher punishment for Trundy. In particular, they said he did not do enough to help her when he realized he had shot a person instead of a deer.

“I truly hope that when he closes his eyes at night, he hears Karen scream, and he relives that moment for as long as he lives,” her stepfather, Perry Morin, wrote in a letter to the court.

A tear rolls down Debbie Morin’s face as she reads a statement Tuesday in Oxford County Superior Court in South Paris. Morin’s daughter, Karen Wrentzel, was shot and killed by a hunter in October 2017. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Trundy read from a brief letter he wrote to Wrentzel.

“I’m writing this to you, Karen, because I want you to know how deeply sorry I am our paths crossed and created tragedy,” Trundy said.

He said he thinks of her every day and night.

“I lost my soul that day, and you lost your life,” Trundy said. “We walked together in that moment, and because of what happened, you will never walk again, and I will never walk as the person I was. I am so sorry.”

Game Warden Anthony Gray wrote in an affidavit that Wrentzel died around 10:30 a.m. Oct. 28.

Karen Wrentzel

Trundy told investigators that he could see “what he thought was the ‘ass of a deer’ with a tail, skinny legs and a possible glimpse of what he thought could have been part of a head or antler of a deer,” the affidavit said.

He fired his rifle and then heard a scream. He later told investigators that he thought to himself: “Deer don’t do that.” The affidavit states that Trundy said he walked three-quarters of the way to Wrentzel when he saw a yard rake leaning against a rock, and he couldn’t continue.

“Honestly, I couldn’t go down there,” he told Gray. “If I don’t see it, it’s out of my mind.”

Trundy called his father, who was also hunting in the area, to say he thought he had just shot someone. His father found Wrentzel, began CPR and instructed his son to call 911.

Stephen Wrentzel reads a statement on Tuesday in Oxford County Superior Court in South Paris. Wrentzel’s daughter, Karen Wrentzel, was shot and killed by Robert Trundy while he was hunting in October 2017. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Investigators later said Trundy could not have identified his target as is required by Maine law.

The Maine Warden Service charged Trundy with manslaughter, which is punishable by up to 30 years in prison. An Oxford County grand jury indicted him in December 2017 on that charge and one other, failure to provide aid to a person and report a hunting accident.

The second charge, a felony punishable by up to five years in prison, was dropped as part of the plea agreement. Defense attorney Scott Lynch said that, at the time of the indictment, the law enforcement account of what happened was not complete and included “somewhat of a false narrative about the assistance that was rendered or not.”

The judge said he considers the shooting a tragedy, and he agreed Trundy did not meet his responsibility under the law to render aid. But Horton said he also needs to consider Trundy’s lack of criminal history and outcomes in comparable cases. Trundy also will serve four years of probation, and Horton said he believes he will not reoffend.

The judge did not cite those examples, but the sentence did exceed one in a similar case in the same court more than a decade ago. Thomas Bean of Paris pleaded guilty to manslaughter in 2007 for the shooting death of 18-year-old Megan Ripley. Bean, who similarly told investigators he thought he was aiming at the rear end of a deer, was sentenced to two years in prison with all but 30 days suspended.

“This sentence delivers a message to hunters in a stronger fashion than previous sentences have done,” Horton said.

The courtroom was full Tuesday afternoon for the hearing. Family and friends of Wrentzel cried as they listened to the prepared statements. One woman stood and left when Trundy began to read his own.

The victim’s loved ones described her as passionate about art, nature and cooking. Her younger relatives recalled her talking to them about books and taking them to visit the Portland Museum of Art. One teenage girl described her as a role model.

Several people said they could have forgiven Trundy for the shooting if they believed he had done enough to help Wrentzel when she was shot. But they said they did not consider the penalty harsh enough for the way he had acted on the day of the shooting and in the months since then.

“If we want to stop another family from losing another daughter and sister, we need to show people with guns that there will be consequences for anyone who pulls the trigger without being entirely certain of their targets,” said Jeremy Wrentzel, the victim’s younger brother. “Anything less than years spent in jail feels to me like an insult to the memory of every friend and family member that was ever shot by someone being careless with a weapon.”

Debbie Morin, Karen Wrentzel’s mother, read a list she found of things that Wrentzel had wanted to do before she died: Build a treehouse in the woods. Hike the Appalachian Trail. Paint by moonlight. Survive without working for a corporation. Have a child. Find inner peace.

“Some things she may never have accomplished, but because of the defendant’s negligence and irresponsibility that day, she’ll never get to try,” Morin said.

The courtroom was full on both sides, but Trundy was the only person to deliver a statement for the defense. He later left the courthouse through a back door. He will begin serving his sentence Sept. 16.

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