Montgomery County attorney David M. Manilla faces involuntary manslaughter and firearms charges in connection with the Nov. 29 shooting death of a Bucks County deer hunter.

In court records, investigators portray the fatal shooting of Barry Groh as a mixture of reckless hunting, disregard for firearms laws by a convicted felon, and after-the-fact deception by Manilla, 49, of Worcester, an attorney since 1992.

The records also paint an unflattering picture of the three-man hunting party that included Manilla and his uncle, former Montgomery County District Attorney Michael D. Marino.

A court affidavit said Manilla failed to render immediate aid to Groh after shooting him, that the men stood by and said nothing when paramedics initially misread Groh's death as being caused by a heart attack, and that they left the scene before authorities had a chance to interview them in detail.

Groh, 52, of Quakertown, died almost instantly after a high-powered rifle bullet fired by Manilla tore into his heart as he stood in a creekbed along property Manilla owns in Richland Township, Bucks County. He had earlier shot a buck and had dragged it to the creek, where he awaited his son to arrive and help him remove the animal.

Groh's body was found in the creek, not far from the buck. He had removed his bright-orange hunting vest, but investigators believe he still was wearing his orange hunting cap at the time he was shot, the affidavit indicates.

The charges were filed after Manilla admitted to investigators on Thursday -- his fourth interview with police -- that he had shot and killed Groh with his high-powered Remington pump-action rifle.

"Manilla stated that he is responsible for the death of Barry Groh," a probable cause affidavit states. "Manilla stated that he mistakenly believed he was shooting at a deer."

Manilla also admitted that he knew it was illegal to hunt with a rifle in Bucks County, where only bows, shotguns and muzzleloaders are allowed because of the population density and the longer range of the rifles. And he acknowledged that as a convicted felon -- he pleaded guilty to aggravated assault in 1985 -- it was illegal for him to have possessed any firearm in the first place, the affidavit said.

In interviews with detectives, Marino, who served as Montgomery County's top law enforcement official from 1988 through 1999, admitted that he knew it was illegal for Manilla to have a gun or to be hunting with a rifle that day. He had served as Manilla's defense attorney in Manilla's 1985 assault case.

"Marino stated that he neglected to inform investigators about certain things that occurred after they discovered the body in the creek, and that he had not been fully forthcoming with investigators about what happened after they found the body, out of concern for his nephew, David Manilla," the affidavit says.

Manilla had called 911 to report a "hunting accident," the affidavit says, but did not disclose that he had shot Groh when offficers arrived.

Neither did Marino or the third hunter in the party, identified as Robert Monastero, a friend of Marino's.

When either a police sergeant or a paramedic commented that "it appeared that Groh may have died as a result of a heart attack after dragging the deer from the woods," none of the three spoke up to correct him, the affidavit said.

The three gave officers their names and contact information, then left the scene without providing any other information about the shooting. In subsequent interviews, Marino and Manilla "advised investigators that the believed they were free to leave after giving them their names and contact information."

Manilla was scheduled for a 2 p.m. arraignment in Richland Township. The charges indicate that prosecutors believe that while the shooting was reckless, it was not intentional.

Marino and Monastero were not charged.

Contact staff writer Larry King
at 215-345-0446 or lking@phillynews.com.