WARREN — It was a bitterly cold Wednesday afternoon in mid-February, and Warren’s most-famous herd of deer sought shelter on the wooded banks of the Red Run.
No fewer than six animals stood still against the wind blowing through the branches and trunks of bare trees that crackled and swayed in the chilly air that settled over the remnants of forest near 14 Mile and Van Dyke.
Forgetting the path in there, it could have been a scene from the woods of West Branch, Cadillac, Rose City, or countless other towns in Northern Michigan where deer populations have traditionally lured hunters.
But this was Warren, and officials said this herd was hunted in December.
The two men who police alleged killed a deer there with a bow and arrow late last year, 27-year-old William Francis, of Riverview, and 19-year-old Myles Ehret, of Royal Oak, were later charged with killing/torturing an animal, a felony punishable by up to four years in prison.
Tyler Sittaro, of Warren, 11, told police he saw two men dragging a five-point buck out of the woods on a sled in his neighborhood near Jenny and Knapp. Another neighbor called police after the men were seen loading the carcass into a rented U-Haul pick-up truck.
According to a police report, officers later arrested Ehret and Francis near 13 Mile and Ryan, when they attempted to return the truck used to haul the dead deer. The men reportedly had dried blood on their hands and clothing when police stopped them. Officers said they found deer hair and blood in the back of the truck. Police also allegedly recovered a compound hunting bow, a pop-up deer blind, loose corn used to bait deer and a propane heater from a blue Subaru left at the U-Haul store.
Tyler’s mother, Tina Sittaro, said her family has lived in the neighborhood for 18 years and that they now see deer there “every single day.”
She said punishment in the form of a fine, loss of hunting privileges, or community service — but not jail time — would fit whatever crime the court finds Ehret and Francis committed in December.
“They’re young kids,” Tina Sittaro said. “If they never had a problem on their record or anything, the jail part, I just don’t get.”
Still, she said she doesn’t want to see the place her son plays become a hunting ground.
“That’s the scary thing. These guys come out and shoot. What if my son was out there?” Tina Sittaro said. “And what if they had a shotgun instead of a bow?”
Warren Mayor Jim Fouts ordered “no hunting” signs posted near the property after the incident made headlines in December.
Fouts later applauded Tyler Sittaro for reporting what he saw and presented the boy with a pair of $50 gift certificates to a sporting goods store and a local restaurant in January.
“Hopefully, this goes a long way toward sending the message that hunting is unacceptable within our city limits,” Fouts said.
Defense attorney Michael Chupa, representing Ehret and Francis in the case, had not returned phone calls seeking comment at press time.
The men were scheduled to be back in the 37th District Court for a preliminary examination before Judge Dean Ausilio at 8:45 a.m. March 5, after the Warren Weekly went to press.