Man charged with murder in Tyler Co. deer lease dispute shooting death

Man charged with murder in Tyler Co. deer lease dispute shooting death
Melanie Shoemaker (Source: Wayne Aiken)
Melanie Shoemaker (Source: Wayne Aiken)

TYLER, TX (KTRE) - A dispute over a deer lease near the Hillister community in Tyler County turned violent Sunday afternoon, and as a result, 42-year-old woman is dead.

Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford said the victim was identified as Melanie Shoemaker, a resident of the Austin area.

The suspect, John McDowell,, 50, of Hillister, is in custody, according to Weatherford. McDowell has been charged with first-degree felony murder. His bond has been set at $250,000.

Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace Jim Moore said he was called out to the Hillister community southeast of Woodville at approximately 4 p.m. Sunday. He pronounced Shoemaker dead at the scene. Moore said she had been shot through the cheek with a pistol.

According to Moore, Shoemaker had brought a rifle to a McDowell's house because she was upset over a deer lease dispute.

Moore said the Shoemaker left on a four-wheeled ATV, and McDowell followed her on another ATV. The McDowell allegedly shot Shoemaker on County Road 4497 about seven tenths of a mile from FM 1013.

"Melanie was upset that McDowell tore down my deer stand and feeder," said Wayne Aiken, Shoemaker's friend. " She was trying to defend me."

Aiken said Shoemaker used to be involved with his son, but left him. Aiken said Shoemaker was suffering from mental issues and did not have her medicine on her yesterday.

"I took her to Beaumont to get her medicine," Aiken said. "She could not get all of it because she had no money, but she convinced them to sell her five of the pills. She never had the time to take the pills before this happened."

Aiken said Shoemaker had taken a rifle he had in his house, but that was to make a scene and he could have never seen Shoemaker using it.

"She was not a harm to anyone," Aiken said. "She would really only yell at you about it."

Aiken said he does not understand why McDowell would have killed Shoemaker over the dispute.

"Man, all over a deer lease?" Aiken questioned. "You killed someone over a deer lease."

Weatherford said disputes over deer leases are common in Tyler County, but they rarely get physical.


"We get these disputes way more than you would expect," Weatherford said. "Nine out of 10 contact law enforcement if they have an issue."

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