A New York man now faces a charge of second-degree manslaughter after an incident late last month in which, authorities said, he shot and killed a neighbor he mistook for a deer.
On Nov. 22, around 5:20 p.m., 43-year-old Rosemary Billquist was shot once in the hip by Thomas Jadlowski from some 200 yards away as she was out walking her dogs in a field near her home in Sherman, New York, according to officials with the Chautauqua County, New York, Sheriff’s Office and the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation.
Jadlowski, 34, remained on the scene after hitting Billquist and he explained his role in the shooting to authorities, the sheriff’s office said.
Immediately after firing on what he believed to be a deer, Jadlowski said, he heard a scream and raced to Billquist and called 911 while applying pressure to her wound.
Billquist, whose maiden name is Jafarjian, died from her injuries while in the hospital. On Thursday, state and local officials announced Jadlowski had been indicted on two counts in her death. In addition to manslaughter, he is also charged with hunting after legal hours. (It is illegal to hunt after sunset in New York.)
Jadlowski surrendered into the custody of county officials and was arraigned in Chautauqua County on Thursday, the state DEC said. He pleaded not guilty, with bail set at $50,000 cash or $100,000 property, which it appears he has since posted.
In a statement, Jadlowski’s attorney described the shooting as a “tragic situation” that “will certainly alter the lives of [Billquist’s] family and friends, as it will for my client and his family.” He declined to comment further.
Messages left with the sheriff’s office and the district attorney were not immediately returned.
“I feel confident that justice will be served,” Billquist’s husband, Jamie Billquist, told The Buffalo News after the indictment.
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“Like the rest of Chautauqua County, Sherman has many responsible hunters, and having grown up in Sherman myself, I know many families where hunting is a family affair,” Chautauqua County District Attorney Patrick E. Swanson said in announcing the charges.
“Responsible hunting is paramount to the safety of anyone enjoying the outdoors,” Swanson said. “This incident is a tragic reminder of the importance that hunting laws be followed. This incident was completely avoidable. My sincerest condolences go out to the Billquist and Jafarjian families.”
The shooting has sent the small community of Sherman reeling, according to local news reports. The town in west New York, with a population of less than 2,000, is about seven hours outside New York City.
“[The Billquists and Jadlowskis] are two major families in this town,” one local businesswoman told the News. “It kind of tears the town apart.”
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“It’s shocking, all right,” an assistant fire chief told the paper.
And a third resident said the effects of the shooting had spread around the community: “It’s such a tragedy. It’s destroyed two families. It’s made a very sad time in this town. You can see it in everybody’s faces.”
Former Sherman mayor John Patterson said his thoughts were also with the shooter.
“With every bit of hope I have, I pray to God that no one will attack him personally,” he told the News of Jadlowski. “He’s already going to die 1,000 deaths every day. He’s never going to be able to get away from this.”
“I want to extend our condolences to Mr. Jamie Billquist, and his family and friends. This is a tragic situation,” Jadlowski’s attorney, Michael Robert Cerrie, said in a statement to PEOPLE.
“Mrs. Billquist was a shining star in our community, and she will clearly be greatly missed. This tragic event will certainly alter the lives of her family and friends, as it will for my client and his family,” Cerrie continued. “At this time, we will not be answering any further questions, until we have a chance to review the discovery material that will be provided by the Chautauqua District Attorneys’ Office.”
Rosemary, Patterson said, was “one of the very good ones” who “brought a dose of happiness to everything.”
At her funeral, friends reportedly remembered her for her laugh, her hair, her love of animals and her selflessness.
“She was always out to help somebody. She never wanted credit and was always quiet about it,” her husband told the News soon after her death. “She’s just an angel. An angel for sure.”
Jadlowski lived about a quarter of a mile away from the Billquists and they were friendly in a neighborly way, according to the News and the New York Times.
“I’m not looking for vengeance, and I know Rosemary’s not either,” her husband told the Times. “There’s got to be some kind of lesson.”