Bucks County hunter Barry Groh had the grim misfortune to come within range of another hunter who was a felon and a lawyer, no less, who had been given too many second chances and shouldn't have had a weapon in his hands.
The senseless slaying of Groh, 52, of Quakertown - which resulted in manslaughter, weapons, and other charges Friday against David Manilla, 49, of Worcester - is deeply troubling on many fronts.
Manilla belatedly admitted that he shot the fellow deer hunter in the Bucks countryside late last month. Manilla, the nephew of a once-prominent county politician, was jailed on $2 million bail after Bucks County District Attorney David W. Heckler and county detectives solved what had been a mystery for weeks.
While riding an ATV with two other hunters, Manilla said he accidentally fired off the lethal round from a high-powered rifle at what he thought was a deer. Instead, Manilla killed Groh, a husband and father of two, who was in the process of hauling away a deer he had shot.
Those details would be damning enough, but it gets worse. Manilla was convicted of bludgeoning a man 25 years ago. As a felon, he was barred from hunting with a firearm, much less one that is banned in this region.
Manilla had also previously shot another hunter in Schuylkill County in 1994. With a history of shooting a gun despite being a felon, Manilla deserves no lenience if convicted.
He appears to think and act as if he is above the law.
Even worse, after shooting the fatal round, Manilla and two hunting buddies waited a half-hour to summon help as Groh lay in a creek Nov. 29. They said nothing to a paramedic about Groh's having been shot, leaving the paramedic to speculate he suffered a heart attack. Then they left the area without waiting for police to question them, authorities say.
More troubling, Manilla's hunting party included his uncle, former Montgomery County District Attorney Michael D. Marino.
That's two men with legal degrees who behaved in ways that deserve scrutiny, and perhaps action, by the state lawyers' disciplinary panel. At the very least, they behaved despicably in failing to alert authorities to the shooting sooner and in not providing a full account of the incident.
Authorities said Marino - who admitted he knew it was illegal for Manilla, as a felon, to carry a rifle - took nine days to come forward with information that helped solve the case. Marino's political friend, Bruce Castor, a Montgomery County Commissioner, issued a statement praising him for providing "a complete account of what happened." Please.
Any justice for the Groh family that comes from this is due to Heckler and his aides. They pursued the truth despite clear attempts to evade responsibility for a deadly act that prosecutors described as reckless and cowardly.