Henry was like a member of the family.
Daniel Deegan bought the whitetail buck with his father and brother nine years ago. They were starting a farm to breed and sell whitetail deer.
Deegan’s father and brother later died, so Henry was a living connection to the town of Fulton man’s loved ones.
Henry would eat acorns out of his hand, Deegan said, which is what he did on Sept. 21, 2017, before Deegan left on a family trip.
Henry died that night of arrow wounds after two men broke through the double fencing of the deer pen. Deegan said he saw several arrows there, indicating Henry did not die immediately.
He thinks Henry ran around the pen being shot. He called it torture.
Later, Deegan found the gut pile where the thieves had field dressed Henry’s carcass.
Deegan was at the Rock County Courthouse on Tuesday to see a man sentenced for the crime.
He saw a teenager sentenced to two years of probation.
Darrick E.M. Riggs, now 19, of N9309 Knuteson Drive, Whitewater, pleaded guilty to felony criminal damage to property and two misdemeanors, theft and trespassing.
The pleas came as part of a plea agreement. Judge John Woods followed the agreement, sentencing Riggs to probation for the misdemeanors and withholding a finding of guilt on the felony.
The felony charge is held open, so Riggs can be found guilty and sentenced to prison if he violates his probation.
Assistant District Attorney Scott Dirks said he agreed to recommend the sentence only because Riggs had no criminal record until now.
It’s an opportunity for Riggs to prove to everyone that this was a one-time mistake, Dirks said.
Riggs’ attorney, Frank Lettenberger, offered no excuses but said Riggs had a tough upbringing, graduating high school while living on his own and even so staying out of trouble.
After he realized what he had done to the Deegan family, Riggs was devastated and determined to repay them, Lettenberger said.
Working two or three jobs and often living in his car, he has accumulated about $5,500 of the $18,909 restitution the Deegans requested, and he did not contest that amount in court, Lettenberger said.
Riggs said he frames houses and milks cows.
Riggs understands he can’t compensate the family for their emotional loss, Lettenberger said.
Lettenberger said Riggs shot the deer as a way of impressing his girlfriend’s father, an avid hunter.
Woods said Riggs showed “horrific judgment.”
Riggs told the court he didn’t understand the impact of what he was doing and intends to pay all the money he owes.
Riggs called being arrested and charged “the scariest thing I have ever been through.”
Riggs committed the crime with his stepbrother. Lettenberger said Riggs wants to take all the blame because his sibling, who cut the fence, is developmentally disabled.
Woods ruled Jan. 23 that Christopher Dostal-Riggs-Boss, 26, also of N9309 Knuteson Drive, was not competent to stand trial.
All that remains of Henry is an impressive set of antlers. Riggs disposed of the carcass after it rotted, Wood said.
For Deegan, Henry was family but also represented hope for the future of the small deer-breeding operation.
Deegan explained after the hearing that Henry was raised to breed other deer who would be sold for profit.
But now that Henry is gone, he doesn’t have another breeder, and chronic wasting disease regulations forbid him from moving new deer to the farm, he said. He hopes the ban will be lifted, perhaps after someone invents a good way to test deer for CWD.
“He took it upon himself to come onto my property and take something that meant the world to me,” Deegan told the court. “Not only that, he stopped my business in its tracks. I had that one breeder buck and that one only.”
“It broke my son’s heart,” Deegan said. “He asked me how somebody could do this, and I couldn’t explain to him how someone could go in there and shoot a deer.”