September 25, 2018


A Tillamook man will serve a year in prison for accidentally killing his best friend on a bowhunting trip near La Pine, ending a case that divided the victim’s family on whether the man responsible should go to prison.

Michael “Shawn” Pekarek, 55, appeared Monday in Deschutes County Circuit Court, where he pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide for releasing an arrow that struck and killed his hunting partner and longtime friend Jeffrey Lynn Cummings.

The Deschutes County District Attorney’s Office in September 2016 charged Pekarek with first-degree manslaughter — a Measure 11 offense with a steep automatic prison term — along with the lesser charge of criminally negligent homicide.

The case dragged on for more than two years as the defense waited for the state to produce medical evidence, said defense attorney Shawn Kollie.

The prosecution had asked the judge to give the defendant 25 months in prison.

“The state’s perspective is this was at the very least a negligent act and it should not have happened,“ said Deputy District Attorney Andrew Moore. “(Pekarek) should not have turned to another person armed with a drawn bow, knowing that this bow had a light touch and could easily be released.”

The defense asked Miller to not impose a prison term, citing Pekarek’s cooperation with investigators, statements from the victim’s family requesting leniency and the hardship that incarcerating Pekarek would have on his partner in Tillamook and their five children.

“The worst part for him, obviously, has been knowing that he killed his best friend,” Kollie said.

The facts of the case were not in dispute.

According to attorneys, early on the morning of Sept. 12, 2016, Cummings and Pekarek were in a truck on Forest Road 9736 about a half-mile south of Paulina Lake and 16 miles east of U.S. Highway 97. At around 7:40 a.m., Pekarek spotted a large buck off the road and the two got out of the truck with their bows.

Records show Pekarek had hunted in Oregon since 1995. On the day in question, he was using a compound bow with a mechanical release he had used many times before.

Pekarek drew the bow on the animal, but it ran out of sight. He turned and gestured toward Cummings with the arm that held the bow and told his friend he should try to shoot the deer. But as he did this, an arrow was released that struck Cummings, 30 yards away, in the center of his stomach, severing an artery.

Pekarek called 911 and was given instructions on performing CPR. He tried to pull the broad-headed arrow out of Cummings, but it couldn’t be dislodged, according to Kollie.

Monday’s plea hearing and sentencing included audio of Pekarek’s 911 call.

“I killed my best friend,” Pekarek is heard telling the dispatcher in a shaky voice.

Blood tests confirmed Pekarek was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

A number of family and friends testified or offered letters to the judge, most asking for leniency.

“I don’t think Jeff would like this at all, what’s happening to Shawn,” wrote friend Wendy Baker. “I don’t think prison would do him any good. He already crucifies himself over this every night.”

Kollie said his client is taking medication for night terrors, which wake him most nights.

“Each time he kills his friend in a different way,” Kollie said.

Several of Cummings’ relatives spoke on behalf of the prosecution, asking for prison for Pekarek. They included the victim’s daughter, Cheyanne Cummings.

“It’s not fair,” she said. “It was negligence, and it sucks for me to say that because I do love Shawn — he’s like family — but he took away my father. And my family might be mad at me because they have different opinion, but he was my dad, and I will never get to have him again.”

After listening to statements from both sides, Judge Randy Miller took a 45-minute recess before announcing Pekarek’s sentence — 13 months in prison, plus three years post-prison supervision.

“My hope is that all involved will find a way to persevere and heal,” Miller said.

Miller gave Pekarek until Tuesday to check in with prison to begin his term.

“I’m not totally happy with it,” Pekarek told The Bulletin after the hearing surrounded by friends and relatives in the courthouse lobby. “But based on where it could have went, I am happy with it.”

Cummings and Pekarek had been friends for more than three decades. Relatives testified Monday the pair were so close their children all called the other “uncle.”

Cummings grew up mostly around McMinnville. At the time of his death, he was a resident of Wood Village east of Portland and worked for Tyree Oil. He is survived by his father, a brother, a sister, six children and two grandchildren.


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