Man faces felony charges after hunting death

David Michael Barber shot and killed Justin Beutel, pictured, on Nov. 15 while out deer hunting in Antrim County.

BELLAIRE — A man accused of killing another after mistaking him for a deer will see trial.

David Michael Barber, 46, appeared briefly before 13th Circuit Court Judge Thomas Power in Bellaire Monday for a final conference hearing. The morning discussion centered mainly on trial scheduling — a new date has yet to be set, pending scheduling of other cases.

Barber, of Gaylord, is accused of shooting and killing Justin Beutel on Nov. 15, 2018 — opening day of firearm deer season.

A Department of Natural Resources investigation revealed Barber had crossed onto Beutel’s family land while hunting that day, according to court records. He spotted what he thought was a buck about 60 yards away, and fired a shot.

Trekking over to claim his prize revealed a different scene. Barber found Beutel lying over a partially field-dressed deer, court records state.

Earlier that day, Beutel, of Sanford,had sent a grinning photo to family next to the buck he’d felled. Court records show the avid hunter chronicled tracking the deer via text messages to friends.

Barber was charged in January with felony involuntary manslaughter, felony firearm possession and discharging a firearm causing death, a high court misdemeanor. The first charge could net him up to 15 years in prison.

Court records show the defense has argued Beutel wasn’t visible from Barber’s perch, and Attorney Daniel Hartman has called into question whether his client’s actions constitute the level of negligence needed for an involuntary manslaughter charge. That matter reached the Court of Appeals this summer, but the appellate court declined to address the issue until the case’s conclusion, Hartman previously told the Record-Eagle.

Hartman and Antrim County Prosecutor Jim Rossiter did not immediately return calls for comment Monday.

See updates at www.record-eagle.com.

Reporter Brendan Quealy contributed to this report.

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