DOYLESTOWN — A hunter accused of having fired the shot that killed 18-year-old Jason Kutt while Kutt and his girlfriend were sitting at sunset Oct. 24 beside the lake in Nockamixon State Park is cooperating with investigators and is expected to plead guilty to all the charges, Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub said during a press conference Wednesday announcing the arrest of 52-year-old Kenneth Heller of Warminster.
“Clearly this isn't a perfect ending. Perfect would be to get Jason back. That's just not how real life works. That's not how criminal justice works,” Weintraub said. “This isn't a really happy ending, but it is a fair and just and a final ending.”
A preliminary arraignment on homicide charges was held Wednesday for Heller, who waived a preliminary hearing in the case and who had agreed to be taken to Bucks County Correctional Facility with no bail, Weintraub said.
Heller, who was hunting at the time, is not believed to have intentionally shot and killed Kutt, Weintraub said.
The two didn't even know each other, Weintraub said.
“I am led to believe pretty concretely that Mr. Heller as a hunter took aim and shot what he believed to be an animal,” he said.
Kutt, of Sellersville, was a 2020 graduate of Pennridge High School and Upper Bucks County Technical School. He had been sitting with his girlfriend at the edge of the lake, waiting for the sun to set, when he was shot once in the back of the head, around 5:15 p.m. on Oct. 24. Kutt was pronounced dead two days later.
The shooting happened near the Old Ridge Road access to the state park, across from the marina at Lake Nockamixon. Kutt's girlfriend told authorities she saw a man in an orange vest, which she described as hunting clothing, standing behind a yellow gate at Old Ridge Road, looking in their direction. The investigation found that the distance from that gate to where Kutt and his girlfriend were sitting was 550 feet away, according to Weintraub.
Weintraub said his office has been in contact with the Kutt family throughout the case and, as a result of the agreements made between the DA's office and Heller, the family will get to know exactly what happened to Kutt and have the case resolved more quickly than often happens in criminal court.
Weintraub said his goal is to account for the criminal liability and to allow the Kutt family to move on and celebrate Kutt's life.
The agreement calls for Heller to plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter with a sentence to be determined by the court, Weintraub said. The maximum sentence under the agreement is 10 to 20 years in state prison, Weintraub said.
Heller's formal arraignment in Bucks County Court is scheduled for April 23.
Along with homicide, reckless endangerment and possession of instruments of crime charges, Heller is charged with two hunting law violations — one for shooting and killing a person and the other for failing to render aid after a hunting accident — Weintraub said.
“Hunters live by a code and by and large, they're incredibly respectful to the laws,” he said.
Following the shooting, investigators asked for the public's help in identifying the owners of three vehicles seen in the area at the time of the shooting.
“One of those did end up being Mr. Heller's vehicle,” Weintraub said.
An anonymous caller informed investigators of the license plate number and said that the owner was the “shooter,” detectives Timothy Campbell and Michael Walp of the Bucks County Detectives office, wrote in the criminal complaint in the case.
During a search of Heller's home, a .17 caliber Marlin rifle, ammunition, an orange hunting vest with Heller's 2020 hunting license and a Nockamixon State Park brochure/map were found, investigators said.
Heller, accompanied by his attorney, later met with investigators and admitted that he had fired the shot that killed Kutt and that the rifle recovered in the search was the one with which the shooting happened, according to the criminal complaint.