Deer hunter sentenced in death of Buffalo teen
AITKIN, Minn. (AP) _ A judge sentenced a Maplewood man to a year in jail Monday in the shooting death of a 14-year-old boy he mistook for a deer last November while hunting in a state forest north of Lake Mille Lacs.
Steven John Ferguson, 46, was sentenced to a year in jail and placed on supervised probation for 10 years on a conviction of second-degree manslaughter in the death of Brandon Lanie, of Buffalo.
Aitkin County District Judge John R. Solien also ordered Ferguson to drink no alcohol, to enter no liquor establishments and to have no contact with Brandon's family. He also was ordered to pay a fine and restitution. He was given 30 days to report to the Ramsey County Jail.
Lisa Roggenkamp Rakotz, senior assistant Aitkin County attorney, said three family members made victim impact statements before sentencing.
Nicole Lanie, Brandon's stepmother, said the last year had been a nightmare for the family, noting that Ferguson put the family through the ordeal of a trial rather than admit his guilt.
Rakotz read statements in court on behalf of Brandon's mother, Debi Hulett, and his 10-year-old half-sister, Kaelan Lanie.
Kaelan talked about the family taking in a stray dog shortly before Brandon's death. The dog was named Buddy, which also was Brandon's nickname. She said she believes Brandon sent Buddy to the family as an angel, Rakotz said.
Ferguson also gave a statement, saying he'll live with his decision to shoot at what he thought was a deer for the rest of his life, Rakotz said.
"Nothing that the court can do ... can make up for the loss the Brandon Lanie family is feeling," Rakotz said. "Hunters have a responsibility that they have to be absolutely sure of their target. I hope it sends a message to hunters to that effect."
Ferguson testified during the trial that he thought he shot at the shoulder of a deer. Rakotz said that's not good enough.
"Hunters need to be sure they are seeing a deer that they see the entire animal," she said.