Lawyer jailed for hunter's death on $2M bail

December 17, 2010 8:05:24 PM PST
A lawyer once cited for shooting a pheasant hunter reported finding a man's body near his property but never told police he had fired a high-powered rifle nearby, prosecutors said Friday in filing involuntary manslaughter charges.

Lawyer David Manilla was hunting in Bucks County last month with his uncle - a former district attorney - and a friend when he mistakenly shot the hunter with the banned rifle, a police affidavit states.

All three men approached the downed victim, who had fallen into a creek, but none used their cell phones to call 911 until they returned to Manilla's residence, officials said. When police arrived, the trio stood silent when an officer wondered if the hunter had had a heart attack, officials said.

Manilla was detained Friday on $2 million bail and did not enter a plea in the killing of hunter Barry Groh of Quakertown. Manilla had previously been cited for the 1994 shooting of the pheasant hunter and was barred from possessing a weapon because of a 1985 felony assault conviction.

Groh, 52, was waiting for help transporting an eight-point buck he had killed the morning of Nov. 29, the first day of hunting season, when the rifle shot tore through his aorta.

A coroner said he would have died within a minute.

The investigation, though, has taken weeks to piece together, as Manilla gave conflicting information over four interviews. His uncle, former Montgomery District Attorney Michael D. Marino, eventually stepped forward to admit he had not disclosed everything he knew, according to the affidavit.

Authorities do not believe Marino or the friend, Robert Monestero, broke any laws through their alleged omissions.

"Does it paint a tawdry picture? Yeah," Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler told The Associated Press on Friday. "But it's not a crime that I can see."

Neither Manilla nor his lawyer, Richard Winters, returned messages Friday. Marino did not return a message left at an apparent home number, and a number for Monestero could not be found.

Manilla, 49, obtained a law license despite his prior aggravated assault conviction and went on to build a career defending drunken drivers.

His girlfriend showed police a stash of nearly 70 rifles and shotguns at her home, including 18 believed to his, authorities said.

Manilla lives in Worcester, Montgomery County, and also owns the hunting property in Richland Township, adjacent to the public area where Groh was hunting. Police said they found three mounds of corn on his property, suggesting someone was illegally trying to bait deer.

Manilla lost his hunting license for two years after the pheasant hunt shooting, which injured Ronald Rautzahn. According to Rautzahn, the shotgun pellets missing an artery by an eighth of an inch.

"I could have been done. I was that close," Rautzahn, 75, of Williamstown, said this week. "And now to hear he's involved in another one?"

Manilla told police he had seen a deer before jumping off the ATV and firing the rifle, striking Groh about 88 yards away. However, investigators do not think he could have seen Groh's buck from his vantage point.

Groh had taken off his blaze orange vest, but not his orange hat, after dragging the deer to the stream, Heckler said.

"The vest, and maybe a couple layers of clothing under the vest, were hung on a tree, so they should have been able to have been seen from some distance," Heckler said. "We believe ... that this was at least a reckless act."

In addition to the involuntary manslaughter charge, Manilla was also charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm, reckless endangerment, failure to render aid and other charges.

Groh's son arrived on the scene behind police, expecting to help his father move the deer. Police diverted him before he came across the body.


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