July 07, 2021
A Warminster man who fatally shot a teenager last fall at Nockamixon State Park will spend 7 to 20 years behind bars after pleading guilty on Wednesday to multiple charges in connection with the October incident.
Kenneth Troy Heller, 52, was hunting at the state park in Bedminster Township on Oct. 24 when he fired a shot in the direction of the lake. Heller thought he had been targeting an animal, but instead struck 18-year-old Jason Kutt, who was with his girlfriend and had recently graduated from Pennridge High School. Kutt collapsed suddenly from a bullet wound to the head and died two days later.
The shooting happened near the Old Ridge Road gate to the state park, across from the marina.
Immediately afterward, Heller fled the scene and attempted to hide evidence of his involvement, prosecutors said.
Kutt's girlfriend had reported to police that she saw a man wearing an orange vest leave the area of the Old Ridge Road gate with hunting gear. Her emotional 911 call was played at Wednesday's sentencing hearing.
Days after Kutt's death, police began a search for three vehicles that witnesses had seen in the area around the time of the shooting. One of the vehicles was traced to Heller.
Detectives who interviewed Heller's co-workers learned that the Heller 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, according to prosecutors.
Investigators met with Heller and his attorney in December, and Heller admitted he had fired his .17-caliber Marlin rifle from the area of the Nockamixon State Park gate on Old Ridge Road, shortly after 5 p.m on Oct. 24.
During the interview with detectives, Heller admitted he made no attempt to inform authorities that he had fired the fatal shot.
Heller pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment, weapons offenses and two hunting law violations for failing to render aid to Kutt, and he was sentenced by Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey L. Finley.
The plea agreement was made in consultation with Kutt's family, and he was given the maximum sentence for his crimes.
"There is no recovering from this," Kutt's father said in a statement at the sentencing. "Our hearts will never heal."
Bucks County District Attorney Matthew Weintraub thanked the community for providing key tips that helped lead investigators to Heller.
"Although the court sent a very strong message of punishment and deterrence in imposing the maximum sentence on Mr. Heller, there are no winners here," Weintraub said. "Jason Kutt's death is still heartbreaking. But ending this prosecution with a guilty plea, I hope Jason's family can now remember him and grieve his loss on their own terms, separated from Mr. Heller and the criminal justice system."