December 30, 2020
A Warminster man faces homicide and related charges stemming from an October shooting that killed an 18-year-old man at Nockamixon State Park.
Kenneth Troy Heller, 52, was identified by Bucks County prosecutors during a press conference Wednesday, more than two months after Jason Albert Kutt, of Sellersville, was shot in front of the Bedminster Township park's lake while sitting with his girlfriend.
Kutt was found suffering from an apparent gunshot injury to his head. He was taken to a nearby hospital with life-threatening injuries and later pronounced dead.
At the time, Kutt's girlfriend reported seeing a man in an orange vest with hunting gear leaving the area.
Authorities had been searching for several vehicles that were reported to have been in the area around the time of the shooting.
District Attorney Matthew Weintraub said Heller has agreed to plead to involuntary manslaughter and related charges on his first scheduled trial listing. He was formally charged with criminal homicide, recklessly endangering another person, possession of an instrument of crime, possession of a prohibited offensive weapon and two hunting law violations.
During the investigation, it came to light that one of the vehicles police were searching for belonged to Heller.
Detectives who interviewed Heller's co-workers learned that the defendant allegedly did not report to work the Monday after the shooting. He was visibly "shook up" when he returned the next day, and co-workers said Heller gave away guns, ammunition and hunting gear shortly after.
A search of Heller's home and vehicle on Dec. 10 turned up a .17-caliber Marlin rifle, ammunition for the rifle and an orange hunting vest with his 2020 hunting license affixed to the back of the vest. Metal knuckles with a dagger attached also were recovered, prosecutors said.
Detectives met with Heller and his attorney Tuesday, when he allegedly admitted that he fired his .17-caliber Marlin rifle from the area of the gate on Old Ridge Road, shortly after 5 p.m on Oct. 24.
Prosecutors said Heller admitted he made no attempt to inform authorities that he took the fatal shot.
The hunting law violations in the case were for allegedly shooting and killing Kutt and for failing to render aid.
"If you're a hunter, you know (this is) of the utmost importance," Weintraub said. "Because hunters live by a code — and by and large, they are incredibly respectful to the laws that they must abide."
Kutt was a 2020 graduate of Pennridge High School.
The pending plea agreement was made in consultation with the victim's family to ensure resolution of the case, Weintraub said.
"Clearly this isn’t a perfect ending," he said. "Perfect would mean we have Jason back. But that’s just not how real life works, that’s not how criminal justice works, so this isn’t even really a happy ending, but it is a fair and a just and a final ending."
A formal arraignment is scheduled for April 2021.