Woods and Waters An outdoor blog by John McCoy

dnrlawlogoOfficers from the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources’ Law Enforcement Section have arrested three adults and two juveniles from Braxton County for what the officers call “thrill killings” of deer.

Here’s the DNR’s news release:

SUTTON, W.Va. – Three adults and two juveniles from Braxton County have been arrested and charged with multiple violations of West Virginia wildlife laws in what Division of Natural Resources (DNR) LawEnforcement officers are calling “thrill kill” deer poaching incidents.

In October 2009, DNR conservation officers began finding numbers of dead deer adjacent to several roads in Braxton County. The locations, position of the carcasses and in some cases information supplied by the local citizens led the officers to become suspicious of what might have been written off as deer struck by vehicles. However, upon closer examination of the carcasses, the officers determined that the animals had wounds consistent with being hit by a low velocity projectile that officers later learned were slugs fired from a .410 shotgun.

Officer K.W. Bingaman and Officer D. Duffield began asking questions of nearby residents and increasing patrols in the area. They developed information that a group of poachers was driving these areas, spotlighting the deer and then shooting them with some type of firearm that left a wound inconsistent with either a centerfire rifle or a .22 caliber rimfire, the most common weapons used to poach deer. Most of the killing was occurring in the early hours of darkness.

By late October, the officers got a break in the investigation. Deputy Rob Brady of the Braxton County Sheriff’s Department overheard a remark by a juvenile who then showed the deputy a large set of deer antlers and allegedly initially remarked that the deer was “shot the other night” but later changed his story, stating that another individual killed the deer with a bow on Nicholas Run. Deputy Brady passed this information on to Officer Duffield. Additional information from residents revealed that Joshua Samples, Ashley Johnson, Jack Jenkins and a second juvenile were also allegedly involved in the killing of multiple deer.

The conservation officers began a series of interviews that resulted in conflicting stories and a complex tale of many nights of spotlighting deer, shooting at some deer and missing, wounding other deer that ran off to die and killing some deer outright. Of the deer that were killed outright, a very few are alleged to have been taken to the residence of the second juvenile and processed for consumption. Conservative estimates based on the suspects’ statements and the evidence was that 30-plus deer may have been killed by this alleged poaching ring during a two month period.

The conservation officers’ investigation placed both juveniles in the company of Jack Jenkins on the night of November 8, 2009.  On that night they allegedly shot and wounded or killed at least two deer. Court records indicate that Jenkins, who was the suspected shooter, is a convicted felon allegedly prohibited by both state and federal law from possessing a firearm.

Charges have been lodged in Braxton County Court and are pending action. All of the alleged conspirators were from the Sutton and/or Gassaway areas of Braxton County. No hearing dates have been set. Defendants and the criminal charges they face are as follows:

Joshua Samples, age 19 — Three counts of spotlighting with an implement for taking; three counts of hunting from a motor vehicle; three counts of illegal taking of deer; three counts of illegal possession of wildlife; and four counts of conspiracy to violate game laws.

Ashley Johnson, age 20 — Two counts of spotlighting with an implement for taking; two counts of hunting from a motor vehicle;  two counts of illegal possession of wildlife; and two counts of conspiracy to violate game laws.
Jack Jenkins, age unknown — Two counts of spotlighting with an implement for taking; two counts of hunting from a motor vehicle; two counts of having a loaded firearm in a vehicle; two counts of shooting from a road; and two counts of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

Juvenile #1 — Three counts of spotlighting with an implement for taking; three counts of hunting from a motor vehicle; three counts of illegal taking of deer; and three counts of illegal possession of wildlife.

Juvenile #2 — Three counts of spotlighting with an implement for taking; three counts of hunting from a motor vehicle; and five counts of conspiracy to violate game laws.
“The skills and tenacity of Officers Bingaman and Duffield, along with the cooperation of concerned citizens and an alert Deputy Brady, resulted in the senseless destruction of the citizens’ natural resources being stopped,” said Capt. M.A. Waugh of the DNR District 3 office in Elkins.  “Anytime wildlife is taken illegally it robs the honest sportsman of the chance to lawfully harvest game and limits the opportunity to introduce a new generation of young people to the outdoor sports. “

All suspects are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.