The mystery over who shot and killed Ella, the tame doe that lived her whole life at Elmwood Cemetery, appears to be solved. Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker announced this morning that Phoenix M. Vankirk, 19, has been cited by the Missouri Department of Conservation for taking a deer out of season.
In a probable cause statement, a Missouri Department of Conservation officer said Vankirk admitted that he shot Ella to feed his family. Vankirk said he was standing on his deck grilling when he spotted Ella standing in the cemetery. He went inside to get a .45-caliber pistol. He then hopped the cemetery fence and hid behind a tree and waited for Ella to come closer.
When Ella was close enough, Vankirk shot her. She ran a short distance then dropped. Vankirk then returned to his home to get his car. He drove to the cemetery gates, but they were locked, and he realized that he couldn't retrieve the body. He said he had no idea that Ella was tame, and he just hoped to feed his girlfriend and 8-month-old baby. He told the MDC officer that he wants the community to know he's sorry for killing Ella.
Ella's body was found by a security officer in the cemetery on August 4. Her senseless killing sparked outrage and widespread public mourning for the deer known to be very friendly with people at the cemetery. The doe was born at the cemetery in 2011, and spent her entire life there after her mother was hit by a car and killed. PETA offered a $5,000 reward for information that led to an arrest. Vankirk faces a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a fine of up to $1,000.