'Illegal hunting' angle being probed in fatal shooting of 25-year-old driver on Iowa highway

PHOTO: Micalla Rettinger, 25, a graduate of the University of Northern Iowa and former softball player, was fatally shot as she drove home with her boyfriend Sunday morning.PlayUNI Athletics
WATCH News headlines today: April 29, 2019

Authorities in Iowa say they are investigating whether a bullet that killed a former college softball player as she drove home from work may have been an errant shot fired by someone hunting illegally.

Micalla Rettinger, 25, was driving around 2:30 a.m. Sunday southbound on Highway 218 when the bullet shattered the driver’s side window of her Jeep and struck her in the neck, according to police. Her boyfriend, Adam Kimball, 32, whom she'd been driving home from work, was struck in the face by the same bullet but is expected to make a full recovery, police said.

Rettinger, who was heading home from a bar where she worked, was crossing a bridge over Brinker Lake and the Cedar River, authorities said. The area, they said, is heavily wooded.

PHOTO: Micalla Rettinger is seen playing softball for the university in this undated photo. UNI Athletics
Micalla Rettinger is seen playing softball for the university in this undated photo.

"They never saw a gun or a shooter," her father, Steven Rettinger, told ABC News. "It happened really fast, the bullet came in through the driver's side window and went through my daughter's neck and hit him in the passenger seat. He said it happened so fast that he knew he was hit and it took a second for him to realize that she also was hit."

Her father said the autopsy was completed Tuesday, but he had not seen results yet. He also wasn't sure what type of bullet was used, but authorities were doing ballistics work and able to retrieve some of the bullet from her boyfriend's mouth.

"It's a state park out that way. … There's islands out that way. We've been made aware that some illegal hunting may have been taking place on a couple of those locations," Maj. Joe Leibold of the Waterloo Police Department said.

Leibold told ABC News Tuesday that it was not legal to hunt at 2 a.m.

"It's an odd area for someone to be hunting, in the middle of the night," Steven Rettinger said. "You really usually think of hunting 'coons at night time and you don't hunt 'coons that close to the city so it doesn't make a lot of sense. So I'm not exactly sure what the latest theory is."

Rettinger managed to pull over near the Greenhill Road exit but was pronounced dead at the scene.

PHOTO: Police are investigating the death of a woman who was shot on U.S. Highway 218 in Waterloo, Iowa, April 29, 2019. Jeff Reinitz/The Courier
Police are investigating the death of a woman who was shot on U.S. Highway 218 in Waterloo, Iowa, April 29, 2019.

"Micalla was a very giving person. She had a huge heart," her father said. "She never really met anybody she didn't like. She had lots of friends and she'd have given her friends the shirt off her back if they needed it. She was kind to everyone, animals included. Everybody was made happy when she was around. She was the light of the room."

Rettinger, who had plans to become a dentist, was a 2016 graduate of the University of Northern Iowa, where she earned a degree in biology and was "an outstanding outfielder" for the softball team, the university said.

"It's a devastating loss. … She was very well-liked," said Jerek Wolcott, the university’s assistant athletic director for communications. "One of her teammates described her as a sister."

On Tuesday night, the team planned to hold a moment of silence for Rettinger during its last home game.

"I can still see the smile on her face and I remember the way she always thought of other people first in a genuine way," softball coach Ryan Jacobs said in a statement. "When we had youth camps, she was the one that all of the kids on campus would be drawn to. This is a huge loss to our team and everyone that knew her."

PHOTO: Micalla Rettinger, 25, a graduate of the University of Northern Iowa and former softball player, was fatally shot as she drove home with her boyfriend Sunday morning. UNI Athletics
Micalla Rettinger, 25, a graduate of the University of Northern Iowa and former softball player, was fatally shot as she drove home with her boyfriend Sunday morning.

Authorities said they were investigating a number of leads and were asking anyone who may have a surveillance or trail camera that might have recorded something to call the Waterloo police.

"I just pray that the person that did this, I hope it was an accident, and if it wasn't an accident I hope that they don't do it to anybody else," Steven Rettinger said. "I just hope we come to some resolution of this at some point."

A $5,000 reward for information has been offered.