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A "SIMPLE" CASE
You could call this a simple case. Marsh had his man. A charge of negligent shooting would be lodged and the law would take over. Marsh, however, had his private procedure to follow.
First he noted the serial numbers of the rifles. Then, as a matter of routine, he took the two principals to the scene the next morning where they re-enacted the tragedy. Marsh took compass bearings; he sketched diagrams. He took careful measurements, marking down the distance from the muzzle of the shooter's gun to the victim's position. He made notes on the type of cover. He got an exact description of the kind and color of the clothing worn by the victim. From the principals he learned the time of the shooting and the degree of visibility. Also, as a matter of routine, Marsh recovered the bullet from the body of the dead man; this in the event that the hunter might decide to change his plea in court.
Marsh carried a number of other pertinent facts away from the scene which were oddly significant when compared with those of other case histories. This Bronx carpenter had had more than five years' hunting experience. He knew the woods and he understood firearms. He was mature and apparently a man of sound judgment. He seemed, in short, like a man who might be termed by most standards a "safe" hunter.
It might well be considered an exceptional accident. But Marsh, a bear with figures and with some 15 years of records to back him up, can prove that it was not. He has personally investigated roughly 250 woods accidents in his 10 years in the warden service. This case was no oddity. This man, says Marsh, is the typical woods killer.
Naturally not all of Marsh's accidents are quite so simple. In many cases all he has to start with is a victim, stone cold with a bullet through him. This is all he had some time back when he was still just a district warden. It was this case that first gave him something of a reputation as a shrewd investigator.
It was a Thanksgiving Day tragedy. Marsh was just finishing up his turkey dinner with his wife and two young boys when a call came. It was the York County sheriff: "Maynard, a woman's been killed in the woods near Hollis. Can you meet me there? I may need some help."
Arriving at the scene, Marsh found the sheriff and the medical examiner waiting for him. There on a forest road lay the body of a woman, mother of three, with a bullet through her head. The M.E. pronounced her dead by accidental shooting, person unknown. His job was done.
Maynard Marsh's job had just started. The accident had drawn in the hunters working the area. Interviewing each separately, cross-checking their stories, Marsh made a diagram, placing them all at the time of the shooting. He came up with two prime suspects, a man named Smith and a mill worker named Michaud (both names have been changed to protect the innocent party). Each stoutly denied responsibility for the killing, although they both admitted they had fired at game that morning. Marsh, a disarmingly mild and deliberate man, appeared to accept these disavowals. He spoke casually about ballistics evidence, suggesting that it was easy to assign responsibility by test-firing rifles and matching the bullets with the one recovered from the victim's body.
Quite deliberately he neglected to disclose that he didn't have the bullet from the victim's body and that the chances were it would never be recovered. Still casual, Marsh went about the routine of taking serial numbers of all the rifles he could lay his hands on. He got the break he was waiting for. When he came again to Michaud, it seemed the mill worker had mislaid his rifle in the excitement.