Just 10 days before Cory Barrett was supposed to take his steer to show at the Austin County Fair, someone shot it to death.
Barrett, 18, a senior at Sealy High School, came out Sunday morning to trim his steer Hawkeye when he found him dead in a trap pen behind the barn.
“When I walked out there, I found him lying flat and he was bloat up and when I saw that I knew immediately he was dead,” Cory said. “I hollered at my stepdad to come here. We rolled him over and we found a hole behind his left front shoulder where the bullet has gone through. At that moment we knew somebody had shot him. We called the sheriff’s and they came out and investigated on it, took pictures.”
The shooting devasted Cory, who has worked with the calf since March to get him ready for the fair.
“It still bothers me today,” he said. “At the time I was angry, upset. It hurt me bad seeing him there dead.”
Cory and his mother, Lisa Barrett, and his stepfather, Scott Hauerland, believe the steer was targeted and not the act of random violence.
“It definitely wasn’t a drive-by or a random shooting. The angle and positioning of the shot, it definitely wasn’t a drive-by or accident or anything like that,” Hauerland said.
In all, there were seven calves in two trap pens behind their barn off Gebhardt Road that night.
“There was three other calves in there with him and right next door was another trap with three calves in it,” Hauerland said.
The attack on the steer wasn’t the first, either.
“This calf might have been targeted before,” Hauerland said. “Somebody seemed to have beat him in the back at the end of May.”
Lisa Barrett said it happened right after their fair held the tag-in for steers. At first they thought Hawkeye had stepped in a hole or something, but a chiropractor working to re-align the spine found scar tissue from a beating on his back.
Cory said he doesn’t have any idea who would do such a thing to him and his steer. The attacks on Hawkeye, however, cast a cloud of suspicion over all the other entrants at the fair.
“When you show cattle like that, you have parents and exhibitors you could look at,” Lisa Barrett said. “You’ve got breeders you could look at… It’s a wide area of people.”
The case was investigated by Johnathan Baraks of the Austin County Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Jack Brandes declined to comment on the case except to say that it remains under investigation.
The Barretts said that the shooter knew exactly what he or she was doing.
“The person or persons who did this had to be close to the steer, meaning they came onto our property,” Lisa Barrett said. “And the way they positioned the gun and angled it, they didn’t just shoot at it where it would have gone straight through, they angled it so it came through back here, up the brisket…
“…through his throat and out the bottom of his mouth,” Cory finished for her.
Kurt Kainer of Weimar was the veterinarian who did the necropsy on the steer. He determined that he had been shot by a small caliber gun, probably a .22 or .17. The bullet shattered, and because the calf bled out internally, the fragments were too difficult to locate.
“The vet said whoever did this, it probably wasn’t their first time that they had done something like that because of the angle of the shot and the way they did it,” Hauerland said. “It’s a person who knew what they were doing and had done it before. Those are the vet’s words.”
Barrett said she feels her son was robbed of more than a steer when Hawkeye was shot.
“Here’s the thing, it’s his senior year, you know. Someone took away what could have been great memories his senior year,” she said. “They stole that from Cory. They took an innocent life of an animal. Cory will never know how good the steer was and how good he could have done at the county (fair). There’s just so much he lost, not only financially, but I guess you’d say emotionally. They stole a lot from him.
“We don’t want this to happen to anyone else. No one deserves to have anything like this happen. These kids work too hard and put too many hours into these animals for some heartless individual to come and do something like this,” she said.
Cory said he is “pushing on” through his schoolwork and football practice and finds comfort in the encouragement from classmates and friends. He still has a heifer to show at the fair, so not all is lost. But for the FAA member who has been showing livestock since the fourth grade, losing his main project just before his final year is hard to take. He spent many long hours working with the calf since obtaining him in March.
Judi Burttschell, a friend of the family, started a GoFundMe page online to help Cory recoup some of the expenses and to help make up some of the money he could have won at the livestock sale at the fair. It’s called Justice for Hawkeye- Cory Barrett College Fund.
The family is asking anyone with information about the case to contact the Austin County Sheriff’s Office.