By WARREN DILLAWAY
and MARK TODD
JEFFERSON - A quick-thinking teenager saved her mother from a bear that ambushed the woman inside her Hartsgrove Township home Monday afternoon, according to Ashtabula County sheriff's deputies.
Daphne Supplee, 15, distracted the 500-pound black bear from its attack by tossing meat she retrieved from a refrigerator at the animal, deputies said at a press conference Tuesday morning.
"That girl probably saved her mom's life," said Lt. Greg Leonhard. "She thought quickly on her feet. A lot of adults wouldn't have been able to do that."
Rachel Supplee, 36, of 6434 Route 6 W., was listed
in stable condition Monday night at St. Elizabeth's Health Center in Youngstown. Supplee suffered a bruised lung, broken rib and lacerations "from the top of her head to her feet," deputies said.
Hospital staff would not comment on Supplee's condition Tuesday afternoon.
Leonhard played a recording of Daphne's 911 emergency call to the sheriff's department, received around 2:45 p.m.
"It's in our living room," Daphne said during the call, emotion evident in her voice but in control of the situation. "It's on top of my mom."
The bear was shot and killed by its owner, Mark Gutman, who owns and operates Grand River Fur Exchange, 6310 Route 6 W., according to reports. The business is a short distance from the Supplee residence, deputies said.
Gutman is a licensed commercial game propagator who keeps other wildlife, including at least one other bear, on the premises, officials have said.
Gutman told deputies he wanted to get rid of the bear last year because it was "aggressive" but found no takers, according to a report. The animal was not euthanized because Gutman and his girlfriend "were attached to it," deputies said in a report.
Investigators' reports will be forwarded to the county prosecutor's office for review, said Detective Jeff Lewis.
State Wildlife Division officer Wade Dunlap said Gutman's operation was in compliance with state requirements.
A investigator's report provided more complete details Tuesday about the bizarre incident. The bear shared a chain-link metal pen - approximately 10 feet by 12 feet in size - with a female bear, deputies said. A divider made of similar fencing material splits the pen, according to a report.
When the pen is cleaned, both bears are put into one side of the divided area while the other side is cleaned, then are put on the other side to scrub the other section, according to a report.
While preparing to clean the pen around 2 p.m., Gutman and an employee noticed a hole in the divider, deputies said. While leaving the pen, the bears "plowed" past Gutman, he told deputies.
The female bear eventually was coaxed back into the pen, but the male ambled away and disappeared, deputies said. Gutman and the worker searched the property, but then learned from a neighbor that a bear had been spotted a few doors down the road, deputies said.
While driving to the location, the pair saw Rachel Supplee outside and bloody, screaming that her daughter was inside the house with a bear.
Moments earlier, Daphne had opened a door that connects the house to an attached garage to let the family dog out. The bear barged in, raced past the girl and attacked Rachel Supplee, who was standing in a kitchen doorway. The bear began dragging her toward the garage door, deputies said.
Daphne was unable to pull the bear away but succeeded in luring the bear into the kitchen. At that moment, Rachel Supplee ran out the door, deputies said.
Daphne opened a refrigerator-freezer and tossed hamburger at the animal, deputies said. The bear ignored the meat and kept advancing toward the girl. Turkey that she eventually tossed toward the bear did the trick, distracting the animal long enough for her to run to her bedroom, lock the door and escape through a window, deputies said. She then called 911.
Gutman coaxed the animal outside. When the bear seemed ready to start running, he killed it with a single shot from a 12-gauge shotgun, deputies said. The bear fell about 30 feet from the garage, according to a report.
Gutman and the employee stayed with the mother and daughter until an ambulance arrived. Deputies said Gutman was distraught, leaning against the ambulance, crying and offering to help Supplee. Dunlap said the carcass will be tested for disease.
Calls to Gutman's house resulted in a busy signal.