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Edwards man sentenced to six months in county jail for his role in fatal hunting accident

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CANTON - A 21-year-old Edwards man has been sentenced to six months in the St. Lawrence County jail after shooting and killing his uncle while the two men were tracking a wounded deer in December 2011.

St. Lawrence County Court Judge Jerome J. Richards also ordered Tyler M. Soper of 882 Trout Lake Road to serve five years’ probation, make restitution of $10,307, pay $375 in surcharges and fees and abide by the terms of an order of protection directing him to stay away from the victim’s wife and her two children for his criminally negligent homicide conviction. He was represented by Canton attorney Charles B. Nash.

The county court judge told Soper he was no longer allowed to possess any weapons, including muzzleloaders and bows and arrows.

Soper had been charged with second-degree manslaughter by St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department investigators after he shot and killed Paul D. Hatch, 49, of 69 Hatch Road, Russell, at 4:45 p.m. Dec. 11 while the hunting companions were tracking a wounded deer.

Deputies said the two were on Mr. Hatch’s property approximately 200 yards off Fordham Road when Mr. Hatch was shot in the chest.

Mr. Hatch was taken to Canton-Potsdam Hospital, Potsdam, where he was pronounced dead.

According to court documents, Soper spent most of the day hunting with his 50-caliber rifle. “We came out of the woods sometime about 4 p.m.,” Mr. Soper said in his police statement. “We were going to go home, but Paul decided to drive up the Fordham Hill Road.”

While on Fordham Hill Road, Mr. Hatch pulled over and shot a deer, Soper told deputies. Mr. Hatch then drove off in a truck and asked Soper to follow the deer’s trail. While following the trail, Soper told deputies thought he saw the deer get up, and he shot at it.

Andrew Wood, another of Mr. Hatch’s nephews, had St. Lawrence County Assistant District Attorney Jonathan Becker read a victim impact statement calling for Soper to be sentenced to state prison.

“I miss him (Mr. Hatch) every day. He was a wonderful son, husband, father and grandfather,” the statement said.

“Nobody can change what happened that day. Nobody can condone his behavior. You have to know your target. He and Mr. Hatch were best of friends. He certainly didn’t want this result,” Mr. Nash said.

The defense attorney also read a statement written by Mr. Soper after his client struggled to share his message with the court.

“I wish I could change it. I’ve replayed it in my head so many times ... If only we hadn’t gone hunting and if only we had gone home instead of going to a different area,” his statement said.

“Paul was more than my uncle. He was my friend and like a second father to me. We fixed fences together, rounded up cows together, fished, hunted, worked on machinery and cut firewood. It is very hard going on knowing Paul isn’t there working on his farm, sitting in his chair reading Dr. Seuss books (to a child) and watching her grow or sitting at the kitchen table with Aunt Micky. To see the pain, grief and anger in Aunt Mickey’s face and know I caused that.”

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