Randy Lee Gozzard of St. Petersburg showed up for the opening day of deer hunting season in northeast Ohio on Nov. 27, as he did just about every year of his life. At about 2 p.m., his three friends heard several shots.
"They started yelling for him, looking for him," said his step-daughter, Kristy Dubsky. "They thought he got a deer."
Instead, they found Gozzard on the ground in a small clearing.
"We’re on Horton Road off South Road and the gentleman we are hunting with has been shot," one of the friends said in a call to 911 moments later.
According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the hunters, who had permission to hunt on the private land in Ashtabula, said they had heard other hunters in the area just prior to the incident. But officials could not locate anyone. This week, the agency enlisted the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s wildlife detection dog to sniff for shell casings.
"We’ll try to recreate the scene, figure out where everybody was standing and what happened and why it did happen," said Jarod Roof, a law enforcement supervisor with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
Ohio law calls for hunters to wear an orange vest, coat, jacket or coveralls. Gozzard’s family says he was wearing the proper clothing.
Gozzard, who was retired, graduated from Edgewood High School in 1973 and worked for many years for Reactive Metals Inc. in Ashtabula. He met his wife in Ashtabula at a going-away party and they married in Daytona Beach in 1991. The couple moved to Belleair Beach in 1996 and later ended up in St. Petersburg.
Gozzard was an avid outdoorsman who enjoyed scuba diving, bowling, darts, golf and fishing with his grandchildren. He also liked to make stained glass.
"He was a dedicated and loving husband," said his wife of 26 years, Judee Gozzard. "He idolized his family, especially his grandchildren."
In addition to his wife, Gozzard is survived by his father, John Gozzard; and his children, Jim (Shelley) Kister, Stacey (Tommy) Kister-Clark, Kristy (Jon) Dubsky, Jason McNeil, and Kelly (Mike) Jenkins.
Gozzard’s funeral service took place Saturday in Ashtabula. Memorial contributions in his name can be donated to Cleveland Metroparks to help fund a fishing program for children.
The Associated Press and the Star Beacon of Ashtabula, Ohio, contributed to this report.