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Charges amended to manslaughter against man accused of causing hunter's death

A Breezy Point. Minn., man has been charged with felony second-degree manslaughter for allegedly causing the death of a hunter in Clearwater County.

The charges against Kevin Thomas McCormick, 52, were amended March 4 in Clearwater County District Court.

McCormick originally was charged Nov. 8 with felony first-degree assault and misdemeanor hunter harassment. He now is charged with second-degree manslaughter and misdemeanor hunter harassment.

According to the criminal complaint:

McCormick at 10:45 p.m. Nov. 6 called Clearwater County to report that a man was on his property and had put a deer stand in a tree. McCormick said the two men "had a scuffle" and fell from the deer stand, but that medical attention was not needed as the man left the property.

A White Earth Tribal Police officer responded to the scene, located off Height-of-Land road in Clearwater County, and did not find anyone.

It was later learned that Jerry Donald Benedict had called 911 through Mahnomen County Sheriff's Office for an ambulance at about 7:30 p.m. that evening for a possible back injury. He was taken to Mahnomen Health Center and then life-flighted to a Fargo, N.D., hospital due to the severity of his injuries.

A Mahnomen deputy interviewed Benedict, who said he had been pulled from a deer stand while hunting off of Height-of-Lane Trail in Clearwater County. Benedict described a man with the name of Kevin who had approached him while he was in the deer stand and accused him of trespassing on his land. Benedict said the man, identified as McCormick, continued to argue with him and began pulling the canvas of the tree stand he was in.

The pulling of the tree stand caused the stand to fall from the tree and Benedict fell to the ground, he said. The stand was about 16 feet above the ground, with the base about 12 feet above the ground.

Benedict suffered severe injuries, including several broken vertebrae in his back, internal abdominal bleeding and blood in his lungs.

Benedict died Nov. 24.

McCormick, in a taped statement, said he told Benedict he was trespassing on his property and told him to leave. According to McCormick, Benedict said it was tribal land and he had permission to hunt there, but McCormick said he knew Benedict drove on his land to get to the tree stand.

McCormick said he extended his business card to Benedict but could not reach him because he was more than 7 feet in the air. He said he stepped on the top rung and grabbed onto the canvas. The tree stand tipped and fell to the ground.

A check at the Clearwater County Assessor's Office showed that McCormick did not own any property in Clearwater County, according to the criminal complaint.

The maximum penalty for manslaughter is 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.