Two charged in two-day poaching spree in Westmoreland County

Harrisburg — A two-day poaching spree
in early December that resulted in at least eight dead deer has
been resolved with guilty pleas by two Westmoreland County
men.

 Ryan Simonds, 20, of Derry, and
Garrett McConnell, 19, of New Alexandria, pleaded guilty to charges
filed at District Judge Mark Bilik’s office in Bradenville, according to
the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

 Each defendant was charged and pled
guilty to: two counts unlawful use of lights while hunting ($575
for each count for each defendant); six counts of unlawful taking
or possession of game or wildlife ($300 for each count for each
defendant); one count of damage to property ($75 for each
defendant); and one count of restrictions on recreational
spotlighting ($75 for each defendant).

 Simonds and McConnell were ordered to
pay fines and costs totaling nearly $3,400, as well as nearly
$9,000 for damages to a house and car. The defendants also will be
subject to multiple years of license
revocation.

 

According to Wildlife Conservation Officer
Seth Mesoras, on Dec. 6 and 7, between the 10 p.m. and 4 a.m.,
Simonds and McConnell went on a shooting spree that resulted in
seven deer being killed, and injuring one that was required to be
put down.

During this time, a house and car
were struck with errant shots. Four dead deer and the one injured
deer were recovered on Latimer Lane; two found dead on Mannitto
Road, and one on Stephenson Road.

 All of the deer were shot the same
night with 12-gauge buckshot and slugs. The deer were all left where they
were shot with no attempt to take
them.

 

Of the nearly 60 shots reportedly fired that
night, 40 empty casings were recovered from three roads along which
the deer were found dead.

 

“At one point during their night-long shooting
spree, Simonds and McConnell were shooting at a deer that had
crossed the road in front of them and they missed,” Officer Mesoras
said. “The projectiles traveled about 150 yards and struck a house
and car.

 

“Of the nine pellets that are in one
“00” buckshot shotshell, seven struck the side of the house and one
struck the side of the car in the driveway. Several of the pellets
entered the house that was occupied at the time. Fortunately, no
one was injured or killed.”

 

Mesoras noted that the final break in the case
came after four days of solid investigation for 18 hours or more a
day.

 

“The only two pieces of information I had were
that the incident involved a red Chevy Cavalier, and I had the
first three numbers of the license plate,” Officer Mesoras said. “I
was speaking with someone at a local store and a woman overheard me
talking and went home and told her husband. It just so happened
that her husband saw the defendants on a road that we had not
previously known about on the same night shooting at
deer.

“He took down the
license plate number and gave it to another individual expecting
him to call in. The other person never did, but the anonymous
witness called us after he had heard from his wife about the
shooting spree.

“We then immediately went to the new
location and found the same shell casings on the road. We ran the
license plate number, and went to McConnell’s house, where we found
his red Chevy Cavalier.”

 

A search warrant was obtained for the car and the
house and the evidence was retrieved. The defendants later
confessed through a course of interviews.

 

“The disappointing part about this case is that
roughly 60 shots were fired that night in the New Alexandria area
that we know of, and only two witnesses initially stepped forward,”
Mesoras said.

“The defendants showed a complete
disrespect for the wildlife of Pennsylvania. When an incident like
this occurs it should be remembered that they were shot on the
Sunday night of rifle season and these were deer that could have
been legally harvested by someone
else.”

 

Mesoras thanked a local butcher,
Samuel Monteparte, who helped collect five of the deer and cut them
up for the Hunter Sharing the Harvest Program.

 

“At least all of the meat did not go to waste,”
Mesoras said. “It also should be noted that this is just one of the
many poaching incidents that occur throughout the year. For every
one that the deputies and I caught at least four more got
away.”

Categories: Pennsylvania – Jeff Mulhollem

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