When I turned 12 many moons ago, it was near the start of buck season in NWPA. Growing up in a small rural town surrounded by the Allegheny National Forest, I’d spent much of my youth tramping through the woods, exploring and dreaming.
I already knew much about the outdoors and could identify most every animal and bird in the area. This was important as I sat down to take a hunters safety/training course. Already with plenty of experience shooting rifles, shotguns, pistols and bows, I felt I was well rounded and educated enough to become a good hunter/sportsman.
Lets examine that last phrase: “Hunter/Sportsman”. What does that actually mean? Well, based on what my father had instilled in me, it was a title that came with great responsibility. With a loaded weapon in my hands, I was now tasked with using it appropriately and wisely. I was instructed that killing an animal was not something you did for fun. You were actually a part of the ecosystem, controlling a game animal population that left unattended would lead to disastrous results due to sheer lack of wild areas. Should I choose to pull that trigger, I’d better be prepared, making sure I was well within the state game laws as well as those laws we keep inside that include compassion and frankly, doing things the right way.
When I recently viewed the new Documentary, ‘Dead Bigfoot‘ (the story of Justin Smeja), I had already written several articles on the subject, but I was glad to see it all tied into one neat package. In fact, Ro Sahebi did a fabulous job making this movie. The editing and narration were extremely well done among other aspects. In fact, it was Ro’s film-making that kept me watching, as quite frankly, I was sick to my stomach after the first 30 minutes.
During that first 30, we are introduced to Justin and ‘the driver’ as they related the story of that fateful day back in November of 2010, now known as the ” Sierra Kills” incident.
Already knowing the story intimately, my focus was more on Justin and his demeanor, his psychological profile, if you will. I wondered how I would go about saying this and finally decided the bluntly honest approach to be best, no sugar coating here. Point blank, Justin Smeja is a stone cold killer and very possibly a sociopath. My first hand experience with sociopaths gives me a leg up in recognizing the signs and unfortunately, my last encounter involved living with such a person for 5 years. Suffice it to say, recognizing the condition is somewhat second nature to me.
Justin seemed to have a carefree attitude about the life he took. I’m sorry, the two lives he took. In fact, before pulling that trigger for the first time, he still wasn’t sure if he might be seeing a man in a ape costume. What could have been going through his mind? “I’m going to kill a man in a costume, but I’ll get away with it because he shouldn’t be out there. It’s an accident and I wouldn’t be prosecuted. Plus, I’d get away with murder and feed my need to kill.”
Obviously, I can’t really say for sure what Justin was thinking, However, in my mind, he struck me as the type who would secretly dream of someday hunting human prey and making the ultimate kill. Let’s not be naive, there are likely thousands of people out there who covet the idea of hunting the most intelligent animal on the planet and Justin may just be one of them.
As he went further into his description, he did it with a distinct matter of fact attitude, occasionally smirking and laughing, as if to convey a sense of pride at what he’d done. Getting back to the definition of a hunter/sportsman, Justin doesn’t qualify in my mind. My view of Justin is that he kills for the sheer pleasure of doing so and that’s not what the sport of hunting is based in. When he chose to dispatch the adolescent, it seemed just an added bonus to Justin. No feeling, no guilt, nothing. A definite earmark of a sociopath.
The driver was much less bloodthirsty in his telling of the story and if there were a time when I desperately wanted to see their stories cross up, this was it. Unfortunately I was to be disappointed, as he proceeded to relate the event almost verbatim of that told by Justin. While very upset over the killings, he made it a point to say that had he been holding the gun, he’d probably have done the same thing. This I found hard to swallow, as most everything he said during the incident was geared toward not killing these strange animals. In fact, he vehemently pleaded with Justin to no fire that first shot. This is where a friend tries to justify actions after the fact, as he further went on to take another one for his buddy by describing how cool it was to see the shot hit it’s mark. This got me questioning him and his mental stability as well.
As I watched part of the polygraph exam, I was again wondering about Justin’s cold heart. It’s possible to beat a poly and often the questions themselves are crucial to gaining a perspective, but for the most part, it’s extremely difficult to get by without being truthful and Justin passed without a problem. What does this mean? To me it was inconsequential, either Justin was being truthful or he is full blown psychotic. Sociopath’s are incapable of real emotions, they feel little or no empathy and are built for fooling a lie detector.
Now halfway through the film, I had formed a pretty good opinion of Justin’s character. Moving ahead to Justin’s (what I saw as mock emotion) apprehensions and poignant moments, pondering what he now says is a “terrible mistake”, I was further convinced of his dark persona. Sociopath’s will often act out with emotion, sorrow and remorse if they see themselves in a vulnerable position. Of course, it’s all done for effect, geared toward personal gain.
As more and more experts in the field such as James Fay, Bart Cutino and Bigfoot Evidence’s Shawn Evidence (Sanh Oriyavong) came into the picture, it seemed that Justin now had a large contingent around him and felt it a great opportunity to show these creatures close up. So, all or in part, they headed to the kill site on several occasions, going over the area for the investigation and also hoping to catch a glimpse of the elusive creature called Bigfoot. Notice, that up to now, I haven’t actually mentioned the words ‘Bigfoot’ or ‘Sasquatch’. My reasoning is this: I believe Justin’s story is more about killing than it is about the reality of Bigfoot. While the group believes they did witness several of the creatures on these forays into the wild, Ro didn’t focus too much time on that aspect. He may have had different reasons, but I think it was the right call in this case. That would have moved the film into an entirely different direction with no closure. Never fear though, as I’m sure Ro isn’t done with Sasquatch documentation just yet.
I’ve been pretty hard on Justin in this review and no matter my opinion of him as a person, it still bothers me to think of someone in that way. However, if I am without honesty or integrity, what do I have? As I was writing this review, a video came out that I want you all to see. This gives a good indication of what kind of person Justin could possibly be:
Remember way back when I began this at the age of 12? Well, there were a few reasons why I returned to my roots. Continuing to examine my rights and responsibilities as a hunter, I can still vividly remember that first year at hunting camp. There was a man there who was in his 30s who had spent a couple tours in Veitnam as a sniper. This was my first indoctrination into the mind of a sociopath. This man would go out in the morning stalking deer. His modus operandi was to sneak and slither through the woods like he was in search of Vietcong. He loved the hunt, but most of all, he loved killing. It was exhilarating for him, but short lived. He would kill a deer and leave it lying right where it dropped. Later he’d say, “if anyone wants a deer, I left one at such and such location, go get it!” Then he’d head back out stalking another, not unlike an addict in search of the next fix. As I watched him converse, I realized this lifeless look in his eyes, almost as if there was nothing but emptiness inside him. I’ll never forget him and still to this day I follow these practices:
1. Never point a weapon, loaded or otherwise at anything, unless you plan to shoot it.
2. Make sure you are away from structures and there is nothing in the area in front of you before you fire on an animal.
3. Make sure you know what you are shooting at. If you can’t identify it, don’t shoot it.
4. Make your shot count. One shot, one kill. Inflict as little pain and suffering as possible.
5. Don’t kill anything you aren’t prepared to harvest and eat.
Addressing California fish and game laws, Justin said he was legal when he fired from his truck on that old road. The fact is, it is illegal to shoot from the window of an automobile in California without a special disability permit. Justin was breaking the law when he rested his rifle in the window of that truck.
Verdict: All in all, I don’t think Justin and I are close to becoming fast friends, but I definitely recommend this film. I was riveted to my seat the entire time as the film seemed to go by very quickly. The editing was top rate and linked three years worth of fragments together, not to mention, the narration was as professional and informative as I’ve ever seen, even on a History channel production. In fact, this film had a definite impact as my mind was changed about what really happened. Furthermore, I am now convinced that Justin Smeja did in fact shoot something unnatural that day. Was it a Bigfoot mother and child, or possibly a strange hybrid of a bear? I can’t answer that, but I do believe a living creature died that day. If I were to rate the film with the classic Siskel & Ebert thumbs method, I’d definitely give it a thumbs up. It’s worth the price of admission and may alter your perception on not only this incident, but your belief system in general.
To watch the Documentary, head over to DeadBigfoot.com and don’t forget:
GT: Sierra (Bigfoot) Kills: Justin Smeja and “The Driver” Speak Out
GT: Jeff Meldrum Examines Alleged Bigfoot Flesh From Sierra Kills? (Meldrum Comments Below)
GT: Sierra Kills Update: Justin Smeja Polygraph Results – *Video Of Exam Added*