OHSWEKEN, Ontario — Stan Jonathan grew up here on the rolling, open land inhabited by the Six Nations of the Grand River, where hunting and farming remain deeply entwined in Iroquois culture to this day. A spirited, gritty winger whose days with the Bruins came to a close 30 years ago, Jonathan returned to this southern Ontario reservation once his NHL career ended and lives in a modest brick ranch at the corner of Third Line and Chiefswood roads.
For the moment, Jonathan isn’t taking any visitors, or discussing days past or present. He’s not talking at all. Facing perhaps a minimum four years in prison, charged in the shooting death of another hunter Nov. 11, the 57-year-old Jonathan on Friday is scheduled to be in a Brantford courtroom, answering to a charge of criminal negligence causing death.
Just over a month later, no one has suggested it was anything but an accident. Jonathan allegedly fired a high-powered rifle (.270 Weatherby Magnum Mark-5) from the side of Third Line Road, approximately 3½ miles east of his house, presumably at a stirring in a line of trees more than 1,200 feet across a harvested cornfield.
According to a media release by the Six Nations Police, Jonathan was hunting deer at approximately 8 a.m. that Sunday, and the lone shot he squeezed off felled and killed another hunter, Peter (PJ) Kosid, a 28-year-old aspiring electrical forester from nearby Hamilton, who left behind a fiancee, their 8-month-old son, and her 4-year-old daughter from a previous relationship.
“I’m sorry, I can’t say nothing,’’ Jonathan, far stouter than his playing days, said when a reporter from Boston knocked on his backdoor last week. “Court orders, I’m not allowed to say anything. Sorry, I really am, and I do appreciate your coming by, but we’ve had a lot of reporters here recently and I’ve had to tell them all the same — I’m just not allowed to talk.’’
Kosid, according to a Nov. 14 release by Six Nations Police, was “in the bush, dressed in camouflage, bow hunting’’ and the “two hunters were not known to each other and were not hunting together.’’
Hunters are often required, or at the very least advised, to wear a piece of orange clothing, for example a hat or vest. The police report stated only that Kosid wore camouflage.
“If he had orange on, [the release] would say it,’’ noted Constable Derrick Anderson, the Six Nations Police media officer, using an index finger to underscore the pertinent words of the media release in a brief interview at the police station. “So to be fair to everyone involved . . . it says right here, ‘dressed in camouflage’ . . . so, if it doesn’t specify it, that means he had no orange.’’
No telling if an absence of orange apparel would factor into how Jonathan fares in the courtroom. A call and an e-mail to Jonathan’s attorney, Toronto-based Kenneth R. Byers, were not returned.
According to his parents, Bob and Wendy, Kosid was allowed to hunt at the Third Line Road location at the invitation of his friend, who had the authority to grant such permission. None of the reports in the local press suggested that Jonathan had a similar invitation.
Print and online reports about the shooting also raised questions as to why Jonathan fired his rifle at the side of a road in a residential area. The spot, identified by Anderson when shown a digital image of the shooting site, is between two houses on the same side of Third Line Road. The nearest house, to the west, is at most 100 yards from where Jonathan fired, while the house to the east is some three times more distant. A report in the area’s largest newspaper, the Hamilton Spectator, noted the field was off limits to gun hunting.
“One careless shot,’’ Sabina Marrone, Kosid’s fiancee, told the Spectator, “and my husband is taken away from me.” The coroner, said Marrone, told her the shot struck Kosid in the back and he expired quickly because of the loss of blood.
Criminal negligence causing death carries a minimum four-year sentence when a firearm is involved.
“It’s not like we think he did it on purpose,’’ the victim’s brother, Brad Kosid, told the Spectator, “but it was so careless. It was a split-second decision that cost a life.’’
Jonathan, a fifth-round draft pick of the Bruins in June 1975, was a favorite of Don Cherry’s, the club’s bombastic and flamboyant coach of the late ’70s. Jonathan left the Six Nations reservation at age 17 to play junior hockey in Peterborough, approximately 140 miles to the north, and was drafted out of the Petes at the end of his third season, after piling up 36 goals and 39 assists in 70 games.
He was only 21 when he made the Boston roster in October 1976, Cherry finding space for him on his celebrated “Lunch Pail Gang’’ roster that included Hall of Famers Jean Ratelle, Brad Park, John Bucyk, and Gerry Cheevers, and other longtime Spoked-B favorites such as Terry O’Reilly, Wayne Cashman, and Rick Middleton.
A fearless, 5-foot-8-inch left winger, Jonathan went on to play 392 regular-season games and 63 more in the playoffs
The night of the memorable fight at the Garden, noted Clark Booth in his book that chronicled the Bruins’ first 75 years, Jonathan “whaled’’ Bouchard “to within what seemed an inch of his life.’’
According to friends, acquaintances, and ex-teammates, Jonathan in his post-career has worked various jobs here since his pro career ended in the spring of 1983. For years, they say, he worked on construction jobs. Lately, according to a longtime friend in Boston, he has kept busy owning a business that rents party equipment. The day a reporter from Boston knocked on Jonathan’s backdoor, two Chevy pickups, a Ford Explorer, and a large pontoon-style boat filled much of the driveway and part of the backyard.
When answering the door, Jonathan was shoeless, wore black sweat pants and a dark green T-shirt, his black hair turned predominantly gray. He was polite, appeared tired, and was some 35-40 pounds heavier than his posted playing weight of 175 pounds.
“I hope everyone learns from this,’’ Marrone told the Hamilton Spectator. “Line up your shot, see what you’re shooting at. I’m told [Jonathan] is very remorseful, but that means nothing to me right now.’’
Kosid, an avid outdoorsman, also left behind infant son Robbie and stepdaughter Ava. A service for him was held Nov. 19 at the Scottish Rite Club in downtown Hamilton and a website, www.pjkosid.com, was established in hopes of bringing in donations to support the children.
Marrone said she plans to spread her fiance’s ashes at Turtle Island, one of his favorite canoeing and fishing areas.
A licensed massage therapist, Marrone has yet to return to work, according to Kosid’s mother.
“She just can’t go back, not yet,’’ said Wendy Kosid, reached by phone at her home in Hamilton. “Her life is upside down. Our life is upside down.’’
Kosid’s father, a graduate of the University of Kentucky, likened learning the news of his son’s death to that day in November 1963 when he was a student on the Lexington, Ky., campus and heard President Kennedy had been assassinated.
“Just the feeling, something you can’t do anything about,’’ he said, struggling for the right words, “it’s something that . . . takes you . . . takes your entire . . . your entire life changes.’’
Kosid, just 11 days short of his 29th birthday when he was killed, was an avid fisherman and hunter, according to his mother. Her brother, Tom, taught him to fish at a young age and his dad taught him to hunt. Days before his death, Peter texted his mother, excited that a videocamera he had set up on the Third Line property showed deer were plentiful.
“In his text, he was all excited, saying, ‘Mom, I think this is going to be the year!’ ’’ recalled Wendy. “He had gotten close before, but he never really shot a deer with a bow. And he was against guns . . . strictly a bow hunter.’’ One deer, Peter told her, stuck his nose directly in the camera, causing it to trigger.
Soon after the shooting, Wendy made the trip to Ohsweken, some 25 miles southwest of the family home in Hamilton, to see where her son was shot.
The trip provided some better understanding of what happened, but provided no peace.
“I don’t have a sense of peace,’’ she said. “I just want him back.’’
Her son felt safe on the property, Wendy said, adding a sense of tragic irony to his death.
“Why would [he think of] turning around [just] because cars were driving by?’’ she asked, rhetorically.
Bob and Wendy Kosid will be in the Brantford courtroom Friday, full of questions, their hearts still aching. Jonathan, currently free on $10,000 surety, will respond to the charges, and the case most likely assigned a trial date.
“Was it an accident? I don’t know,’’ said Wendy Kosid, contemplating a reporter’s question. “Could be. I don’t know what hunters are like with guns. My son was a bow hunter, which is totally different, so . . . I have no opinion on that. I mean, I can’t imagine . . . you know, it probably was an accident, but I just don’t know.’’Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeKPD.