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Breezy Point man found guilty of hunter's fatal injuries

BAGLEY — A 53-year-old Breezy Point man was convicted of second-degree manslaughter for pulling down a tree stand and causing a hunter’s fatal injuries in a Clearwater County courtroom in Bagley.

According to The Bemidji Pioneer, a jury of 12 convicted Kevin McCormick on Friday after deliberating for nearly five hours. Jurors concluded McCormick climbed up Jerry Benedict’s deer stand on Nov. 6, 2010, while Benedict was sitting in it and pulled the stand down.

Medical records showed Benedict suffered eight broken ribs and a dislocated shoulder. Benedict was found later that day by a member of his hunting party lying on a bed at a resort near Naytahwaush, still dressed in his hunting attire, sweating and having trouble breathing. He eventually was airlifted to a Fargo, N.D., hospital, where he died on Nov. 24, 2010.

According to The Bemidji Pioneer, in his closing statement, Clearwater County Attorney Richard Mollin, who prosecuted the case, drove home the idea that Benedict did not fall from the deer stand. Rather, Benedict was pulled out of his deer stand by the explosive temperament of McCormick, Mollin said.

“McCormick had a problem,” Mollin said in his closing statement. “Anger got the best of him. He may not have intended Benedict to die, but he wanted him out of there … He was going to eject him from the area. That was his intent.”

Robert Christensen, McCormick’s attorney, tried to plant reasonable doubt in the courtroom by raising questions about why no member of Benedict’s hunting party heard Benedict complain of any pain after Benedict’s stand fell on the morning of Nov. 6. He questioned how Benedict was able to drive away from the scene on his all-terrain vehicle, shoot his firearm once, walk 100 yards through the woods and climb into a different tree stand later that day while suffering from eight broken ribs and a dislocated shoulder. He proposed Benedict’s injuries could have only occurred after Benedict fell from a second tree stand later that day, likely due to him drinking while hunting.

He failed, however, to convince jurors that the conduct of McCormick, who admitted to a friend on the morning of Nov. 6 that he had climbed up and grabbed hold of Benedict’s tree stand, causing it to tip over, did not set events in motion that eventually led to Benedict’s death. Also, there were no witnesses who saw Benedict fall from a second tree stand.

Benedict, who was retired and living in Florida in 2010, was 64 years old when he died.