Crime

‘I’ve lost family members and stuff, but this ranks right up there with that’

A coyote hunter on private property is believed to have shot and killed Sherman, a 12-year-old pit bull/husky mix that belonged to Custer resident Ray Kortus on Saturday. The family is offering a reward for information.
A coyote hunter on private property is believed to have shot and killed Sherman, a 12-year-old pit bull/husky mix that belonged to Custer resident Ray Kortus on Saturday. The family is offering a reward for information. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Ray Kortus says he didn’t hear the gunshot that fatally wounded Sherman, his 15-month-old pit bull/husky mix, Saturday, April 13, on his Custer-area property.

In fact, Kortus said he didn’t find Sherman’s body until the next morning.

“It just broke my heart,” Kortus told The Bellingham Herald. “I’ve lost family members and stuff, but this ranks right up there with that.”

Though Sherman was on the 20-acre property along Loomis Trail Road where Kortus has lived since 1993, it is believed the dog was shot and killed by hunters, Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Kevin Hester said.

“A deputy went out to investigate but there is not much to go on at this point,” Hester told The Herald. “It is believed that the male subject may have been coyote hunting at night and mistaken the dog for a coyote. The male should not have been hunting or shooting on private property, but we have not been able to determine a suspect and investigate further.”

Kortus and his daughter, Tawnee Hillmer, have taken to Facebook in an attempt to find who killed Sherman, offering a reward that Kortus says now stands at $200.

“We hope by getting this out, maybe other people won’t have to go through something like this,” Kortus told The Herald.

It was approximately 11 p.m. that Sherman began indicating that he wanted to go outside, and Kortus said he obliged. He later saw a truck stopped on the road and a man get out with a flashlight and start going through a field on Kortus’ property.

Kortus asked the man what he was doing and was told he was hunting, before the man returned to the truck, where Kortus said he believes there was a second man, and the pair sped off.

It was about then that Kortus said he realized Sherman hadn’t returned to the trailer, and he started looking for the dog in the direction he normally went, but he wasn’t able to locate Sherman until daylight.

“I think they saw his eyes reflect in their flashlight, and they shot him right through the shoulder,” Kortus said. “They killed him instantly, which is the one good thing about this whole thing — Sherman didn’t suffer.”

Kortus said he never gave permission for the hunter to be on his property, and the fact that Sherman was found only about 100 feet from Kortus’ home, “makes this whole thing even more scary.”

Unfortunately, it’s not the first time a bullet has landed in the proximity of Kortus’ home. Eight to 10 years ago, he said, he came home to find a bullet in a closet that had been fired into the trailer.

“People need to be careful,” Kortus said. “I understand it’s nice and fun for guys to go shooting coyotes,” Kortus told The Herald. “I understand that, but when it’s that close to the house, that’s dangerous.”

Kortus described Sherman as a good hunting dog that had caught more than 100 mice and “was the friendliest dog I ever had.”

Kortus asked anyone with information about the shooting to contact Hillmer through her Facebook page.

“I never thought I would have to be burying him this soon,” Kortus said.

David Rasbach joined The Bellingham Herald in 2005 and now covers breaking news. He has been an editor and writer in several western states since 1994.


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