Convicted Murderer Raises Deer in Prison
RICHMOND, Texas (AP) _ Convicted murderer Millard Moon walks around the prison yard with a 5-day- old deer tucked under each arm, a baby bottle showing from the pocket of his white prisoners’ pants.
Since he first came to the Texas Department of Corrections Jester III Unit four years ago, Moon has helped raise 11 wild deer at the prison.
″You’ve heard of the birdman of Alcatraz? Well, he’s the deer man of Jester III,″ says Ken Dodson, an alcoholism and drug counselor at the Fort Bend County unit.
The birdman was murderer Robert Stroud, who at one point during his 54 years in the California prison was given an extra cell to keep his pet birds. He died in prison in 1963 at the age of 73.
Texas prison officials and Warden Morris Jones allow Moon, 48, to tend to the deer as part of his daily duties. He also is in charge of the flowers and plants at the unit.
″It gives the prisoners something tranquil in their lives,″ Dodson says. ″And it kind of makes life worthwhile for him.″
The deer roam around in a 60-acre spread where a few inmates are allowed to garden and work in, said Warden Morris Jones.
The newest addition to Moon’s herd are Star and Texas, twins born to a deer named Grandma. They join Toby, Venus, Bugger, Mary, Cookie, Buckoat, Skeeter and Grandpa.
″I get along with them really better than people,″ Moon says. ″It does something for a person in prison to have something like this. These deer - they’re my lifesver.″
Moon began tending to the deer when he came to prison in 1980, Jones said. At the time, a buck and doe were already at the compound, and when a fawn was born, Moon took an interest in it.
″He became attached to the baby deer,″ said Jones, who said he told Moon he could take care of it.
Moon was sentenced to life in prison for a slaying he now says he regrets.
″There’s a lot of things you can make up for, but murder - you’ve taken something you can’t give back,″ Moon says.
By helping female deer deliver babies and by nursing them to adulthood, Moon says he can protect life instead of take it away.
Jester III employees bring him plant cuttings, and he is responsible for several bright patches of flowers and greenery in an otherwise austere setting.
The deer are allowed to roam throughout the compound. Prisoners help feed them shell corn, horse and mule feed, twigs and acorns. One prisoner says the deer play baseball with them in the prison yard.
″I really love my deer like they were my children,″ says Moon, who has nine children. ″These deer are my family now.″
More than 700 inmates live at the Jester III unit, and although the deer tolerate some attention, Moon is the only person they trust completely. He even taught one to stand on its hind legs and do tricks.
″It seems to me I’m not even doing time,″ the convict says.