By RJ Walters / Daily News Sports Editor
As published in the Hillsdale Daily News on April 10, 2009
Suspects are being brought in, but no charges are likely to be pressed after animal carcasses were placed on a college newspaper editor’s porch following a staff editorial that was critical of the Hillsdale College baseball team.
The question of where the carcasses, which included deer, a black goat, and several rodents, came from has also effectively been put to rest by the college and local law enforcement officials.
The residents of 244 N. West St, which include The Collegian’s “Beyond section” editor John Krudy, where the carcasses were placed early Monday morning, decided not to press charges earlier this week.
Furthermore, Hillsdale College Associate Vice President Chris Bachelder said he is certain no animals were killed in what the college is calling “a deplorable prank”, and Hillsdale Public Safety Director Chris Gutowksi backed up that claim.
“I can tell you that I asked the Dean of Men (Aaron Petersen) whether or not there were any animals harmed in this process or whether they were roadkill and he told me they were all roadkill,” Bachelder reiterated Thursday. “I can also tell you I have a corroborating person testifying to that — a person who drove by the (Hillsdale County) Fairgrounds and saw the goat on the side of the road a day before.”
Gutowski said he would not be surprised if the goat was just one that got loose on the fairgrounds property.
“Nobody has come forward and said ‘I have a goat loss and it got creamed out on such and such road.’ Hopefully we can find out, but I think most of these animals probably just came from North Hillsdale Road here going between Hillsdale and Jonesville,” he said. “Goats have been known to get loose on the fairgrounds on the weekends, (maybe) somebody got creamed. It didn’t look like fresh meat, but I didn’t get that close.”
Gutowski said he expected the suspect or suspects to be interviewed as early as Thursday afternoon. He also said that his department’s investigation could not “prove or disprove” the alleged gunshot wounds in the goat and they would continue gathering information until the case was closed.
Gutowski said he is not aware of any laws or regulations that prohibit someone from picking up road kill and even if there is something buried deep within the books, “the complainant didn’t want to prosecute, so we’d have to look for some charge that he’s violating some law, and I don’t think we’re going to go looking for some health law.”
According to an article in the April 9 edition of The Collegian, Hillsdale Police Patrolman Randy Casler said he has never witnessed anything like this gruesome, over-the-top prank.
“I’ve seen people put forks in yards – millions of forks – and I’ve seen toilet paper. But this is the most crude I’ve ever seen,” he said. “If that’d been a bear, now then I’d be impressed – but a goat. You can get one of those at the (Saturday morning fairground auctions).”
Collegian editor-in-chief Joy Pavelski confirmed no charges were being pressed, but also said she is glad it wasn’t her porch the mangled animals ended up on.
“I’m very glad it was John actually, because I know that if I had found dead animal carcasses on my porch I would have been bawling for half of the day and probably not even have gone to class,” she said. “But I might be the wimp of my editorial team.”
Although no Charger baseball players or coaches have gone on the record as of yet, and the college has not officially named baseball players as suspects, Pavelski confirmed that team members apologized to her team of editors Wednesday.
An eyewitness, senior Nathanael Rea, said he saw figures from “The Baseball House” at 243 N. West St. carrying shovel loads of the dead animals across the street at approximately 1:30 a.m. Monday.
The incident was seemingly in response to the newspaper’s editorial from April 2, titled “We like baseball, we hate this kind,” which took several shots at Charger players, and even hinted that the college would be doing a good thing if it shut down the program.
E-mails to college athletic director Don Brubacher, head baseball coach Paul Noce and assistant coach Andy Lovell, as well as e-mails to 14 Charger baseball players were not returned Thursday afternoon.
Brubacher and Noce did not return calls and Bachelder said the college is continuing to investigate the situation and determining appropriate punishment for the parties involved, if any.
“This clearly did not meet our standards for honorable conduct and so the difficulty is when you promote and try to enhance honorable conduct and you have a case when it’s less than that, you have to deal with the consequence, so that’s what we’re doing,” he said.
The Associated Press released a brief story on the incident, citing Bachelder and Pavelski as sources. According to Google, at least 127 news sources have published some version of the story as of 4 p.m. Thursday and at least six blogs have picked it up.
USA Today ran a small blurb on the incident in its print edition Thursday and Bachelder said he personally received phone calls from the Toledo Blade and Detroit Free Press, among other sources.
Bachelder said he has gotten a number of phone calls from “interested individuals” and he is trying his best to listen to them and merit them appropriate responses within his guidelines as a college employee.
One thing he is trying to make clear though is that the college is not trying to defend the incident or cover it up, despite some of the infuriated comments that are being made on the Internet.
“People don’t go dig up the right information. There was one blog site I saw that linked a Facebook posting that said ‘(Hillsdale College) helped me get into law school, but if they let felons walk the campus I won’t give them money,” he said. “We’re just going to go take the lumps for a day or two, this will go away and then we’ll go back to our business of doing what we do, which is reach out to people and tell them what we stand for and talk about the core curriculum and market our product and try to live up to our ideals.”
Skylar Walker, a senior political science and classical studies double major from Houston, Texas, who is a member of the school’s swim team and freelanced for The Collegian last year, said she isn’t impressed with how the college is handling it.
“I think they are all acting like children,” she said Wednesday. “I consider Hillsdale to not be the real world; it’s a little bubble and people here are generally more immature or not like aware of what goes on out in the ‘actual’ real world.”
Criminal intent and college relations aside, Steve Todd, a health officer for Branch-Hillsdale-St. Joseph Community Health Agency said there are some health concerns when picking up roadkill, but nothing more than what hunters face on a regular basis.
“With any dead animal, if you touch it with your hands any of the parasites that would still be on the carcass could then be transferred to the person picking it up,” he said. “So you’d want to use a shovel or another implement to pick it up and probably wear gloves.”
The suspects were using shovels according to Rea, but other details have not been disclosed.
Todd said the carcasses probably weren’t decaying that quickly because of the cold temperatures and other than the parasites on the animals, the only sizable health concern would be the body fluids draining out of the carcasses.
“It would primarily just be an odor problem and any of the body fluids draining out of the carcass could cause a cleaning problem or a sustained odor that could be on the vehicle that transported them or the area where they were laid.”
Todd said the residents of 244 N. West St. won’t have to worry about the porch furniture the carcasses were placed on, mainly because parasites are “looking for another warm body, not an inanimate object.”