Charge lessened in hunting accident death

Roger Hoeker's mug shot. (Oceana County Sheriff's Department)

HART, Mich. (WOOD) — A man accused of killing a 13-year-old in a hunting accident earlier this year now faces a lesser charge.

On Monday, an Oceana County judge ruled there wasn’t enough evidence to support the involuntary manslaughter charge that was initially filed against Roger Hoeker in the death of Billy Gort Jr. The charge against Hoeker was amended to careless, reckless or negligent discharge of a firearm causing injury or death.

Undated photo of Billy Gort. (Courtesy GoFundMe)

In Michigan, involuntary manslaughter is a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. The reckless discharge of a firearm charge is a two-year misdemeanor.

Authorities say Billy, who was from Wyoming, was shot in the head while hunting on state-owned land in the Manistee National Forest in February. Hoeker, a hunting safety instructor from Jenison, was charged in August.

Hoeker’s case was sent to circuit court for trial on the amended charge. Trial dates have not yet been set.