This deer was located at the tree monument and found damaged Saturday morning, Jan. 31. Photo by Maurie Bousquet
This deer was located at the tree monument and found damaged Saturday morning, Jan. 31. Photo by Maurie Bousquet


The mystery of the second damaged painted deer (of the Deer Sightings Project) appears to have been solved. Robert Richard Rutherford, 56, of Idyllwild was arrested about 12:30 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 31, for several driving-under-the influence charges.

The arresting California Highway Patrol officer documented Rutherford’s vehicle and the damage to the deer sculpture, according to CHP Officer Jeff O’Steen.

Rutherford was parked in the Idyllwild Inn lot for about an hour. About 10 p.m., he drove forward over the deer and over a wall about 20 inches tall on the street side, according to an Idyllwild Inn surveillance video. (See the four video clips below.)

An individual witnessed the incident and notified CHP, which is why CHP was on the scene so quickly and made the arrest and booked him. He was released the same day on $10,000 bail.

The arresting CHP officer left the deer’s remnants with a notification near the BBVA Compass Bank, where it was found Saturday morning. Bank Manager Jeri Sue Haney said no surveillance camera captured the scene. She said the deer was left out near the entrance to the bank’s driveway.

Photo by Joshua Sundsten
Photo by Joshua Sundsten

Joshua Sundsten of Fern Valley was waiting for a friend nearby. "I heard this terrible metal on metal sound," he said. He ran over to see the car already near the bank. He saw the deer's head and a couple of limbs lying on the street in front of Idyllwild Inn property. "It was amazing. I tried to wrap my head around what had happened."

Sundsten said the car's driver fell asleep at the wheel and he waited for him to wake up. "I wasn't going to let him drive," he said. When the driver awoke and started to drive away, part of the deer was still caught under the car so the engine revved and the wheels spun until the car finally got clear of the deer.

Sundsten said he banged on the car window and asked if he was OK. He said the driver was startled and Sundsten asked him to get out of the car and look at what he had done. "He had no recollection of anything," Sundsten said.

"I asked him if he had had a couple of drinks and he said, 'Yeah, I had a couple.'"

He asked a man who called law enforcement if he could handle the situation and keep him from driving and the man agreed so Sundsten left at that point.

Apparently, the CHP notification was missing from the deer, which was why Marc Kassouf, Art Alliance of Idyllwild president, contacted the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department about the vandalism when he was notified. Sheriff’s deputies began their own investigation of the incident until they learned Tuesday that CHP had already made an arrest.

Wednesday morning, Capt. Lyndon Wood wrote, “I guess this has been sorted out?”

The AAI board will consider taking action against Rutherford at its meeting this week, according to AAI Public Relations Spokesperson Lesly Martin.

J.P. Crumrine can be reached at [email protected]. Becky Clark contributed to this story.


Video 1 of 4: Idyllwild Inn surveillance video showing Robert Rutherford's 2004 Subaru Outback pulling into the parking lot Friday evening, Jan. 30, 2015.
Note: Time stamp is one hour off because of DST settings.

Video 2 of 4: At about 10:06 p.m. (actual time 9:06 p.m.), car lunges slightly forward.

Video 3 of 4: At about 10:14 p.m. (actually 9:14 p.m.) shows the car lunging forward into the area of the painted deer.

Video 4 of 4: At about 11:03 p.m. (actually 10:03 p.m.) shows the car suddenly driving over the deer location and the retaining wall.
Video courtesy Idyllwild Inn

Another deer sculpture has been damaged, perhaps permanently. Saturday morning, one of the deer from the Tree Monument was found near the BBVA Compass Bank.

Jeri Sue Haney, BBVA bank manager, alerted the Art Alliance of Idyllwild that the painted deer had been damaged. Its broken pieces were lying on the ground near the bank’s parking lot.

“We are outraged at this cruel and violent act of vandalism,” said Marc Kassouf, AAI president, in a press release.

“We also are hopeful that the bank’s security cameras or those of nearby businesses will help identify the culprits as they moved the broken pieces from the monument across the street and to the bank,” he said.

In 2013, AAI sponsored the Idyllwild Deer Sightings public art project.

Haney had already reported the vandalism to law enforcement before Kassouf was called to the scene. An incident report was filed and AAI asked that the bank secure the video footage for possible law enforcement usage.

Capt. Lyndon Wood of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Hemet station said he is aware of the incident, but no specific leads or suspects have been identified.

Deer Sightings is the first public art exhibition sponsored by AAI. Twenty-two individually painted buck, doe and fawn sculptures were placed throughout the town and in Pine Cove.

This is the second act of vandalism committed against the town’s public art project. “Rocky,” a deer located in front of La Casita Restaurant, disappeared a year ago and was recently replaced and rededicated by AAI.

“We will work closely with authorities because this project is a visual gift to our residents, our visitors and our next generation,” said Kassouf.

Anyone with information about the incident is encouraged to contact the Sheriff’s Department or call the Art Alliance at 1-877-439-5278.