Reward increased to $6,500 to find Ella the deer's killer - News, Weather & Sports

Reward increased to $6,500 to find Ella the deer's killer


At least $6,500 in reward money has been offered to help find the killer of a docile, human-loving deer who lived in a Kansas City cemetery.

Ella's life story including her slaying has drawn worldwide attention.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) announced Monday that it was putting up a $5,000 reward to help bring the animal abuser to justice. In Defense of Animals, an international animal rights and protection organization, also announced Monday it would put up a $1,500 reward.

Kansas City area residents also have said they would offer reward money.

Ella was a doe who was born more than two years ago at Elmwood Cemetery. Her mother was killed three months after she was born while crossing a nearby busy road, and Ella seldom left the cemetery as a result.

On Aug. 4, someone shot and killed Ella near the chapel where she loved to watch weddings and funerals.

Ella had become almost a tourist attraction for the area.

"She has been a presence here ever since," cemetery trustee Bruce Mathews said. "I like to say that she was a wild animal, not a pet. But she was family."

Ella would follow mourners or those tending graves or attending weddings at the chapel.

"Whenever we had a wedding or funeral at Armour chapel, she would come and stand in the doorway and watch the whole proceedings," said Mathews, who had championed Ella's cause and took numerous pictures of her. "If there was a funeral, she would blend in and become part of the proceedings. That was part of her charm."

John Weilert, president of the Elmwood Cemetery Society's board of trustees, penned a poignant, bittersweet tribute to Ella in last week's newsletter. He concluded his writing by asking Ella's killer, "And, to the shooter: How will you be remembered?"

With Kansas City seeing 67 homicides already this year, finding Ella's killer is not a top priority for police. But groups are hoping the reward money will spur someone who knows something to come forward.

"Animal abusers are cowards," said PETA Director Martin Mersereau. "They take their issues out on the most defenseless beings available to them. Kansas City residents have good reason to be concerned."

Eric Phelps of In Defense of Animals said the cold-blooded killing of a defenseless animal shows the danger the killer poses.

"Someone knows who did this, and he or she will be serving the entire community by stepping forward," Phelps said.

Mersereau said those who harm animals are often repeat offenders who pose a serious threat to humans and animals.

Stephanie Turbiville posted this on KCTV5's Facebook page that Ella "was a beautiful, special girl," who showed love to humans.

"I will always remember the way she would come running to me every time I arrived at the cemetery," she wrote. "Anyone who can say it was JUST a deer has no idea just how special Ella was. Whoever did this went into the cemetery and point blank murdered her. They should suffer the consequences. Animal cruelty is no joke. It is the making of a serial killer."

If you have any information, call the Kansas City area TIPS Hotline at 816-474-TIPS or Kansas City police at 816-534-5000.

For more information on the cemetery, click here.

Here is Weilert's tribute to Ella in its entirety:

Every so often, Elmwood Cemetery is privileged to host a variety of educational projects for young people. One that's always interesting goes like this: the kids are taken on a tour of the grounds for the purpose of reading epitaphs on the gravestones. These inscribed tributes to the dead can reveal quite a lot. After the tour the students gather in Armour Chapel, and the project moderator leads a discussion about what these epitaphs say. The exercise eventually beckons each student to consider "What would you want your epitaph to say?"

This week we are doing it for real.

Sunday evening, August 4, Elmwood's beloved mascot, Ella the deer, was found dead. Ella had been shot, her body lying near Armour Chapel.

Ella was an improbable gift to us. During Memorial Day weekend of 2011 we discovered her as a newborn, curled up in the courtyard of a family mausoleum. Her mother had wandered into Elmwood from who knows where, and given birth. Several months on, the mother deer was killed by a car outside the cemetery. The fawn was left on her own. We were profoundly lucky to have Anita Gorman to turn to. Anita has been a long-time friend of Elmwood, and she wasted no time getting us the advice of wildlife biologists. Their conclusion was that we had two choices, both fraught with risks. First, we could try to relocate her to the wild. The problem with that, they explained, was deer are not easily transportable, and are subject to dying from fright. Moreover, the chances of survival in the wild for this young orphan were quite small. The second choice was to keep her at Elmwood, and let her adapt to the 43 acres of habitat. There was plenty to eat in the way of grass and leaves, and we were cautioned to avoid trying to tame her. Even then, they warned, the Elmwood option involved the hazards of traffic, feral animals, and interference by people. Her chance for survival was probably better than in the wild, but still --- improbable.

Elmwood has always had something of a flair for the improbable. After our cemetery was organized in 1872, it became the second non-sectarian graveyard in the city. Elmwood opened its grounds for families of different faiths and ethnicities at a time when such tolerance was not widespread. That policy flourished. And a century later, when Elmwood was close to being full, and income from the sale of graves dropped to a trickle, keeping the gates open appeared improbable. Thanks to the hard work and generosity of Elmwood's families and friends, the gates stayed open. So, what would we choose for our newly found fawn?

We chose Elmwood. She was a perfect fit!

Our new resident was dubbed Ella, which just sounded right. She adapted well to her home, and her innate ability to live off the land kicked right in. But she was alone, and it wasn't long before she took an interest in humans. She'd stand at a distance, her curiosity about us evident. When we moved about the grounds, she'd follow. We let her take it at her own pace, and the distance she kept began to shorten. Ella was growing to love people. and they loved her back. As she grew from fawn to doe her people skills grew right along with her.

Ella knew her priorities. She stayed close, comforting the bereaved at graveside, celebrating weddings in Armour Chapel, sharing company with military honor guards at veterans' burials, and always welcoming officers of KCPD East Patrol when they dropped by. It wasn't long before news of our skinny little inner-city deer began to get around. People came just to see her, take her photo, and maybe even get a chance to touch her. Art classes sought her out as a subject for paintings or drawings. She basked in the glow of attention.

One fine autumn day Ella raised the improbability bar. She was grazing peacefully, yet only a few feet away sat a small golden dog. Ella greeted us as usual, but the dog was fearful of humans, and retreated. Ella sensed her fear, and moved back to comfort her. It was clear that Ella had taken the bewildered dog under her wing. The two became inseparable. Ella seemed to take this extraordinary friendship as if it were the most natural thing in the world. But winter was coming, and we knew the little dog could not survive living outside in the months ahead. At our request, our friends at Wayside Waifs intervened, and found the dog a loving home. Ella remained at her friend's side until the moment the dog was rescued.

And now we must write her epitaph. Ella has earned her place of rest at Elmwood, the only world she knew. Her wonderfully improbable life becomes a worthy chapter in the narrative that is our cemetery.

For the countless ways in which so many reciprocated Ella's goodness, we thank you.

To Elmwood's families and friends, we will continue to take the improbable in stride, and together we will keep the gates open.

And, to the shooter: How will you be remembered?

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