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The Killing of Karen Wood | Yankee Classic

At Doug’s Shop ‘N’ Save in Bangor Donald Rogerson still stocks the shelves with apples and pears and celery and makes sure the items at the salad bar are fresh and varied. He lives nearby with his wife and children in a white clapboard duplex on a small lot with hardly any yard at all. He is 45 and has lived all of his life in Bangor. He has hunted since he was 10 loves to hunt, but since the shooting he has said that he will “never hunt again” though there is nothing to stop him should he have a turn of heart.

He is soft-spoken with reddish hair and deep-set blue eyes that bear out the words that appeared in the papers following the shooting: nice guy, good citizen. Except for the hubbub that followed the shooting, his life has changed little, if at all. He is surprised when approached by a reporter, seven months after the shooting. “I know of murders that die quicker than this,” he says, unable to understand why Karen’s death is still newsworthy. He wants to talk, seems almost to need to talk, but on the advice of his lawyer he declines the request for an interview and turns back to his work.

Kevin Wood has never seen Donald Rogerson face to face. He doesn’t want to but he sees him in his mind’s eye. Kevin has moved into a new house in a quiet suburban neighborhood in Davenport Iowa. Like the house on Treadwell Acres’ there is a bow window in front and a deck out back. Otherwise, it is far from the house of his dreams. He has hired a nanny to take care of Laura and Lindsey, a pretty girl named Kim who makes the girls laugh by blowing air onto their stomachs and who feeds them grilled cheese and cut-up pieces of fruit as their mother might have. Kevin has a new job, a good job but nothing like the one in Maine. He is happy to be back, though, because there are good friends nearby who remember the wonder of Karen. And he is happy to be away from the noise, the harangue that surrounded Karen’s death.

On his desk is a letter from Jeffrey Hjelm, reassuring Kevin that the case is still open and will remain so for five years. If any new evidence emerges, there could still be an indictment. Kevin holds hopes that there may someday be a trial. It angers him that Rogerson can still go into the woods with a loaded gun. It angers him that Rogerson knows things about how Karen died that he doesn’t.

The house is filled with push toys and fuzzy pink bears, and on weekends, when Kim is not there, Kevin finds himself on the couch, watching cartoons while the babies spin about the living room. To someone who has never met Karen, the girls have their father’s eyes and his hair, seem to look just like him, but to Kevin they look like Karen. Though they cry, maybe too hard, when there is knocking at the door, Kevin doesn’t feel that the girls endured any real trauma from the day that Karen died, only that they will have to live the rest of their lives without their mother.

And he worries about what he will tell them, how he will explain that the man who shot their mother was never brought to trial. His life, he says, was in pieces, and now is the time, at last, to start living again, to move on past the tragedy they left behind in Bangor. In the meantime, Laura and Lindsey have bonded with Kim and love to give their daddy lots of kisses. When he comes home from work at the end of the day, they squeal and propel themselves toward him on sturdy little legs, two whirling pinwheels of life.


Read a 1989 New York Times piece about Karen Wood.

Updated Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

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34 Responses to The Killing of Karen Wood | Yankee Classic

  1. Joanne Sanders December 29, 2007 at 11:06 am #

    This article was originally written in 1989. Many years have passed since that time. I could not help but wonder at the end of this very sad story how Kevin and his young twin daughters went on with their lives?
    Has there ever been any follow up on this family? It might be important to this man and his daughters to know that there are people out there that do really care about their loss.

    This story seems more to be a commentary on how the hometown boys protect their own — than a factual revelation on what really transpired on that unfortunate day of November 15, 1988.
    Surely, common sense tells all of us that some access to the factual details would have to happen; but apparently from this story it seems that protecting a way of life in Maine (the hunting lifestyle), is more important than bringing to light the true facts that surround this tragedy.
    How can a human life be less important than any set of rules that a game warden’s commission has?


    I have traveled throughout New England extensively for the past 27 years, have spent almost all of my additional income there, have many friends and family living there; and have purchased a beautiful piece of land there for the purposes of fulfilling a retirement dream — much like Kevin and Karen. THIS ARTICLE SHOULD MAKE ALL OF US FEEL VERY VULNERABLE! I will certainly bring this tragedy back to my family’s attention to gather their “New England” opinion on it.

  2. e gonyer December 29, 2007 at 11:42 am #

    i remember this tragedy from the newspaper and some of what followed. unbelieveable story! how can something like that happen? did anyone ever think that maybe karen went out to check because she saw or heard someone hunting or with a gun near the house and was concerned about it? people ought to be safe in their own yard no matter what they are wearing and hunters need to make 100% sure of their surroundings and of what they are shooting at. senseless, careless tragedy!!!

  3. Robert J Barry December 30, 2007 at 4:58 pm #

    I worked with the safety division of the Inland Fishiers & Wildlife for 25 years and reviewed over 2000 hunting incidents which I had to summerize for the records. This was under the wonderful tutilege of Gary Anderson, the head of the safety division.The comments I will make are in reference to the accidental shooting of Karen Woods.

    There is no excuse for the shooting of a human being in mistake for a deer or any other big game animal.Please keep this foremost in your mind when I make the following comments.What I want to explain with my considerable experience and knowledge is how it could have happened.Rogerson claims he had jumped a deer and continued to follow the tracks and jumped it again and then when he saw the white (of Karen Woods gloves) thought it was the white of a deers tail and fired at what he thought was an actual deer. In order to understand how this mistake could have been made, you must have hunted in mixed growth to realize that in 90% of the sightings of deer in such sightings is an ear or a tail, or some other body part. You rarely see a complete deer. The cirumstances is never as simple as a cow versus a deer. I have hunted for over 40 years, in Maines thick growth and I know from first hand how difficult it is to identify an animal in the woods of Maine. Now again ,this in now way relieves Rogerson of his obligation to identify his target. What was a history of 70 plus accidents with 15 deaths in the 1950’s is now in the single numbers and zero or one death due to the education of hunters safety and the wearing of blaze orange. Hunting accidents are now down to the 9th or tenth position in outdoor accidents.

  4. Robert J Barry December 30, 2007 at 5:09 pm #

    My comments have been made in response to the Dear Yankee Letters, namely the one regarding the one entitled Tragedy in Maine by Lillan Y. Bella . In no way, do I claim that the shooting was her fault, however the wearing of the white gloves did certainly contribute to the accident.

  5. Robert J Barry December 30, 2007 at 10:40 pm #

    I must add to my comments above and say that no experienced hunter would ever fire at just the white tails of a deer. The chances of only wounding the deer are far too great and you should only fire when you have a shot at the chest area or head and neck .Again, there is no excuse for not identifying your target before you fire.

  6. Lori Wentzel December 31, 2007 at 5:50 pm #

    After reading this story I certainly hope that those that thought ANY of this tragedy was Karen’ fault have reconsidered their stance. I live in Northeast Pennsylvania and wearing blaze orange is a responsibility to any homeowner that goes outside during hunting season. That being said I am proud to be married to a hunter that would NEVER shoot anything because the sighting of a tail. He shoots to kill not to injure. He knows his target 100% before he pulls that trigger and that is the difference between a responsible hunter and a hunter that cares ONLY about the killing. I am sickened by the network that essentially covered up this horrendous incident. Clearly the man’s license should have been revoked. What did he lose? Nothing apparently but a deer. I have often resented the fact that in my own backyard with 25 acres of fields and woods should I have to take responsibilty for hunters that lack judgement and wear orange to warn them. Shouldnt’ they know there target. This and so many other accidents are proof of the phrase “buck fever”. I guess the hunter was justified because the party in her own yard didn’t take the necessary precautions to do the job that the hunter should have been doing, fully knowing his or her target.

  7. Mel Allen January 4, 2008 at 1:33 pm #

    The response to this Yankee Classic shows again that Yankee’s readers and visitors to care deeply about the issues New Englanders face every day. We will continue to put Yankee classics here, stories to provoke thought, inspire and, hopefully at all times, illuminate our region–

    Mel Allen, Yankee’s editor

  8. Kathleen Simmons January 5, 2008 at 6:42 pm #

    I also remember that tragic story and my heart went out to Kevin and his daughters. Justice, to this day, has not been served. Hunting, as a way of life, has won again.

  9. Robert J Barry January 7, 2008 at 4:53 pm #

    Again, please bear in mind there is no excuse for killing another human being because you have not identified your target while hunting,but to say that hunting as a way of life has won again is unreasonable.Please bear in mind that over 40,000 people are killed each year in automobile accidents and another two million injured,it would be similar to saying that driving as a way of life has won again. There are now laws created since the Karen Wood killing which deal with such an incident in a more just way.Please bear in mind that the justice system must operate within the confinds of the laws that are availble at the time of the incident. Despite this whole tragedy, if you consider that more hunters are killed in automobile accidents then in hunting accidents it may put a more broader perspective on the emotionalble aspect of the Karen Wood incident.If she had been killed by a vehicle, out of control, running off the road, what would be your thoughts?

    • Sheila Roberts June 3, 2014 at 4:34 pm #

      If she had been killed by a driver instead of a hunter would be the same: The person responsible for this death should be jailed. It was either negligence or intentional, either way he should have been charged.

  10. Robert J Barry January 10, 2008 at 6:16 pm #

    Gary Anderson the head of the safety division for the Fish & Wildlife of the State of Maine frequently impressed upon us that the great majority of outdoor injuries and and deaths were not accidents but incidents. An accident in Websters dictionary is described as an occurrence, unexpectedly and unintentionally by chance. The great majority of hunting incidents are not accidents. Lightning striking a tree which falls and injures or kills a person is an example of an accident.But when an individual acts in a way that is considered to be irresponsible and neglegent, it is no accident. However, please do not condemn all hunters for the action of one hunter any more than you would condemn all drivers of automobiles for the action of one driver who has killed or injured one human being due to his or her irresponsible driving.

    Bob Barry

  11. Sandra Miller January 16, 2008 at 1:12 pm #

    As a born and raised New Englander, I blame the hunter and those who did the investigation. In reading the story, I see that instead of the local authorities handling the case, it was left to the game wardens to do the investigation. Why? Are they trained in dealing with situations where a hunter has killed a bystander in a backyard? What about the witness who heard the shots. Surely she knew the hunter was TOO close to the homes. Would it have made any difference if the bullets had gone thru the house and hit the children? Why should there be a difference between a back yard and home? It seems from the details of the story that something was being hidden from the facts, hence why even her own husband is not privy to any of the inventigation findings. Whether or not this is an open case, he or his attorney should be allowed to review the findings. I have lived in many places where hunting happens too close to homes (bow and gun) and if a hunter hits anything or anyone they should be held accountable to follow the rules, just as Karen was accused of not following the rules of living in Maine and wearing bright orange. Fair is fair. No license revocation is unbelieveable. Suppose next time he hunts and does shoot someone in their own home. Whose fault is it then? The homeowner because they weren’t wearing orange INSIDE their own home? Or maybe because they were wearing white gloves? That is laughable in itself. This is not about condemning all hunters, just those who break the law.

  12. Richard Rothwell January 20, 2008 at 2:49 am #

    This article is before it was found out that a nephew of the defense attorney was on the grand jury. A second one was convened but same result – victim’s fault. More insult onto injury. There is a lot of info on the web about this incident – start with a Google of “Karen Wood Maine shooting”. This Nov. is the 20th anniversary, good time to voice any opinions.

    Here’s an article with more info from the Oct. 2005 Portland Magazine with more details:

    I’ve followed this every few years since it happened, that’s how I just found this discussion. I do not oppose hunting (having hunted extensively as a youth), just irresponsible hunting – which the people and State of Maine obviously don’t know how to distinguish, nor care about. In Maine, the right to life is greatly outweighed by the right to hunt, even when done recklessly.

    Having shot my first weapon at age 4 and hunting all through my teens I know exactly what it is to properly identify a target, which Donald Rogerson absloutely failed to do. And that has nothing to do with whether the victim was “from away” or not. He committed a tragic crime and got off scott free. There is now a “Target ID” law but so far has failed to prosecute anyone (as of 2005).

  13. Karen Baker January 23, 2008 at 5:33 pm #

    Being from a family of hunters, I have always been told, that there is NO WAY should one hunt near houses. The risk of a ricochet or stray shot, is just too great. It seems established that there is no way this man could have not known he was that close to houses; I see the blame, as 100% on the hunter’s side, not the victem’s. So what, the victem had white mittens on. If there had been a 12 point buck standing in her back yard, would that make it right to shoot it? No, and any hunter, even in Maine, would agree with me!
    This puts Maine’s juries, game wardens, hunters, and it seems, a segment of the state’s public, into the category of hopelessly ignorant. It would even dissuade me from moving there-even vacationing there-for fear of something similar happening.

  14. Jane Healey February 7, 2008 at 11:23 am #

    Robert Barry, how dare you! The white mittens theory is absolute rubbish and you know it! I’m angry & frightened that you are allowed to hold a weapon let alone investigate hunting accidents! Is Maine really that full of hillbillies? That entire dept ought to be investigated, and I find it shocking that the police didn’t have jurisdiction here. Leaving it up to a bunch of hunters is crazy, all they care about is the NRA and their “rights”. I’m sick to my stomach over this.

  15. Jane Healey February 7, 2008 at 11:26 am #

    “the wearing of blaze orange”? Are you actually suggesting that people should wear orange in their own yards? This is insane!

    • Cindy Kagan December 21, 2014 at 12:04 am #

      I live next to public lands in Montana and if I go up into the woods hiking in hunting season, I wear orange or red. Same for the dogs. Orange bandanas. I put a red muscle shirt on my Angus heifer in bear season. People will shoot at anything.

  16. Jane Healey February 7, 2008 at 11:31 am #

    Thank you Karen Baker – hopelessly ignorant sums it up perfectly. I think I’m going to research some of the links provided by Richard Rothwell. I’d like to see a tourism boycott of Maine until this “incident” (ahem) is handled properly by state authorities.

  17. Jane Healey February 7, 2008 at 11:36 am #

    WOW, here’s another one, and apparently Mainers haven’t learned their lesson, they are STILL going outside. When will learn to stay inside their homes where they belong, so that hunters can do as they please? (and the police are still not investigating these shootings??? And still protecting the killer and not releasing his name?)

    Woman Killed In Hunting Incident In Western Maine
    Web Editor: Rhonda Erskine, Online Content Producer
    Last Updated: 12/8/2006 7:43:11 PM

    The Maine Wardens Service and State Police are investigating the death of an 18-year-old girl who was shot by a hunter Thursday in South Paris. Megan Ripley was shot in the chest in woods not far from her house on Christian Ridge Road.
    The shooting happened around 4:00 P.M. in woods at the edge of a field behind the house of the Ripley family’s next door neighbor. Ripley was rushed to Stephens Memorial Hospital in Norway, where she was pronounced dead.

    Game wardens are not identifying the hunter or saying much about how Ripley was shot. But they are investigating whether or not the hunter was adhering to Maine law.

    Game wardens say Maine’s Target Identification Law requires hunters to act in a prudent and reasonable way in identifying their target before pulling the trigger.

    The state legislature passed the law not long after another hunting fatality in 1988. Karen Wood, the mother of twins, was shot in her back yard in Hermon.

    A neighbor of the ripley family says this shooting reminds him of that case.

    “That’s the first thing I thought about when I heard about it,” said Scott Currie. “I haven’t posted my land because, like I say, I’m not against hunting, but I will definitely post my land because I want to feel safe on my property,” Currie said.

    This is the first hunting fatality in Maine since 2004. The state issues an average of 200,000 hunting licenses every year.

    The Ripley family was not ready to do an on camera interview. But one relative told us that the Ripley’s are a religious family and they know their daughter is with god.

  18. Regina Juvet February 9, 2008 at 6:25 pm #

    Outlaw hunting – save lives – both the animals and people !!!!!

  19. Marcia Burchstead February 10, 2008 at 9:33 am #

    I remember how outraged I was when I heard of this incident 20 years ago and today I am still outraged that this irresponsible hunter shot so close to houses and then did not even have his license revoked. I hope time has helped the Wood family come to some type of peace about the killing of Karen and the incredibly insensitive reaction of some members of the Maine community blaming her for wearing white gloves in her own backyard. About ten years ago I was traveling home from New Brunswick and I had pulled off I-95 near Bangor to get gas. As I was driving back onto I-95 while on the entrance ramp a pick-up truck behind me swerved into the grassy area next to the ramp and the driver jumped out and began shooting at a deer in that small area with I-95, the entrance ramp road and an overpass adjacent. I accelerated to get out of there in a hurry. Unfortunately I had no cell phone and only a vague description of the pick-up truck and driver (maroon truck, Caucasian male with dark hair and beard). I remembered the Karen Wood story and knew I probably wouldn’t have been thought a credible witness. It was a frightening incident for me and I can only think of the horror and pain Karen suffered before dying. Thank you Yankee magazine for reviving this story to let people know there are stupid, reckless hunters out there just as there are responsible ones.

  20. Barbara Tyler February 11, 2008 at 5:16 pm #

    I enjoyed vacationing in Maine from the time I was a young kid but I won’t ever be doing it again nor will any of my family. I recall this story all too vividly and the fact that it isn’t an isolated incident make it all the worse. One can almost excuse the actions and thought process of the shooter, his whole focus was to salvage his own sorry butt, but for the other residents of the area and the authorities to take the attitude they did forever dams them If you do something negligent with a vechicle you are held responsible but you give someone the right to roam around with a gun and then excuse his stupidity when he takes the life of a young mother – not in my world. In my family we learn to handle guns safely and with basic common sense. You NEVER pull the trigger if you don’t have a clear identification of your target and a clear line of fire. The last thing any real hunter wants is an injured animal dying a slow tortuous death because they were trigger happy. A police officer almost anywhere in this country is suspended and has to account for his action if he fires his weapon but we let any nitwit go out in the woods (and apparently in the surburbs) no matter how low in smarts they are. Something is very wrong with this picture, yet I don’t see the people in authority doing anything to correct their woeful lack of laws that would punish people this careless with their neighbors lives. I hope the shooter realizes that another idiot could do this to his wife or child – wonder how he’d feel about that.

  21. Robert J Barry February 13, 2008 at 8:51 pm #

    I must respond to Jane Healy’s uncalled for comments and insults to my character. First of all, I stressed the point that Rogerson had no business firing at just white and the fact that Karen Wood was wearing white gloves is not rubbish. It was just a factor written down in the investigation.Point two, I did not participate in the investigation since it was not my job to do so.I merely recorded the incident in our records. As far as my being allowed to hold a weapon, I served in Korea during the war for two years back in 1952 & 1953 and was taught how to hold and fire a rifle during my Army training. Point three, hunters did not do the investigation but trained, qualified Game Wardens whose job it is to do so.The great majority of these wardens are college educated as I am. In addition, I taught Outdoor Safety classes for over twenty five years and among these classes was Hunting Safety.In all these classes we stressed “Identify your target before you consider firing your rifle” Incidently a firearm is only called a weapon in wartime.Also,I do not belong to the NRA.I certainly will agree that big game hunting (with a rifle) is frequently allowed too close to residences.Despite all of this and when you consider that over 200,000 men and women are out hunting during all of October and November and a good part of them from many other states, it is remarkable that hunting incidents in Maine are now down to the single numbers.It is estimated that this amounts to twelve million hours of hunting.Finally, as a senior citizen, I’m 77 yrs old and a former school teacher let me give you a piece of advice. If in the future you cannot discuss an issue in a civil and unemotional manner, please do not enter the discussion.
    Bob Barry

  22. Jane Healey January 26, 2009 at 9:25 am #

    Bob Barry, nowhere did I insult your character. I stand by everything I said, and your age is not relevent to anything here. I still am in shock over the conclusions that were reached in this case, and your seeming defense of these conclusions. Shocking, just shocking. Stuff like this is what makes “gun people” come as nutters to so much of the world.

  23. bug menot August 24, 2012 at 10:27 am #

    Bobbie Barry is of low character. Using according to his logic, Karen Woods’ mere presence in her own back yard “did certainly contribute to the accident.” He also neglected to mention that the killer violated regulations by being too close to an occupied dwelling while shooting. He also ignored what Gary Anderson taught him about what an accident is.

  24. diana s July 2, 2013 at 5:37 am #

    If your too stupid to tell the difference between a deer and a human; you shouldn’t be hunting. After reading this story I decided to post my land.

  25. CATHERINE January 5, 2014 at 1:12 am #

    A Very tragic loss indeed. My thoughts and prayers go out to her family. I do hope however, they aren’t reading some of the more heated disagreements,between the Yankee readers. It is a moving story, which will make people emotional and upset. And yes, ANGRY. I think that we all have kindness in us. This is a place where it is much needed and to direct anger where it belongs, (if indeed it does) not at one another.

  26. Lonnie February 9, 2014 at 5:15 pm #

    The game wardens are not the police. A police detective should have investigated this outright MURDER of a human being and the careless hunter who had NO IDEA what he was aiming at should have been jailed for manslaughter if not outright murder.
    Karen was not romping between trees, she was not jumping over tree limbs like a deer, she was wearing a dark coat on a sunny afternoon, standing in her own yard. What happened to the police investigators? How did they turn their backs on this? That’s who I blame. The detectives who should have done their job and convicted this killer. Anyone who thinks a game warden is an investigator has their head screwed on backwards and this case PROVES IT.

  27. Tina June 3, 2014 at 11:54 am #

    I remember this story ! I was devastated for Karen’s family and my husband and friends discussed it. Everyone of us were against the hunters grave error. My husband, has been harnessed on multiple occasions over the past 25 years, over the stupidest things. How this man got away with it is simply mind boggling !!! As a hunters wife, even I know the laws. I’m proud my husband is a Bow Hunter and can’t/wouldn’t take a shot, unless he was close enough to see the animal broadside for a double lung shot 25 – 35 yards maximum.

    My heartfelt condolences go out to the entire Woods Family. The Hunter should have been convicted period !!

  28. Connie June 4, 2014 at 1:15 am #

    I lived in New Hampshire in 1989 and remember this story from the news at the time. I was so horrified, I’ve recounted the story over the years to many friends. It’s tragic how this man was treated after losing his wife.

  29. Kris June 4, 2014 at 9:45 pm #

    A great miscarriage of justice. Bottom line….he was hunting too close to homes. He even had the sun to his back giving him a clear view of fencing and buildings. So what could he have possibly be thinking to take 2 shots under those circumstances?! This is exactly why the white gloves an other lame excuses don’t cut it right from the git go even if they were sound reasons to begin with.

    I have no problem with responsible hunters or hunting. I do have a problem with those who make very stupid decisions and walk away without a care. I do have a problem with an entire community and their law enforcement officials who leave a man who lost his wife in the dark (and it sounds sooo suspicious).

    In our state, a few years back, a father killed his son and it was called an accident. The father decided to shoot at a sound instead of IDing the target. It was called an accident because the son had his orange blaze jacket tucked in his belt rather than wearing it so it was the son’s fault. A hunter tucking his orange blaze jacket in his belt while actively hunting with other hunters doesn’t sound likely but the police accepted the story. However, I’m certain that father is paying a price that our legal system couldn’t even come close to matching.

  30. Jenn October 16, 2014 at 11:00 am #

    I know this is an old article, but bottom line is, if you are hunting, you need to clearly identify your target. Shooting at something “white” because you think it is the tail of a deer is ridiculous. I have completed a hunter safety course so I am not just spouting off.

    A homeowner should be able to walk onto their property and not be fearful of being shot because they are wearing white during hunting season. That is a ridiculous excuse and poor form on any hunters part.

  31. Candee Balthrop November 6, 2014 at 8:11 pm #

    Tragic ! Miscarriage of Justice !

  32. Patricia Miller January 28, 2015 at 6:04 pm #

    I miss the old “Yankee Classics” stories. Actually, I miss the old Yankee, which had more stories than recipes.

    Edie Clark is a superb writer. I’ve been a fan of hers for a long time.

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