Officials: Massive poaching ring in Washington state spills into Oregon
PORTLAND, Ore. — A bust of one of the largest poaching rings in Washington state history has led to charges for its alleged members across the border in Oregon.
KOIN-TV reports the Clackamas County District Attorney filed misdemeanor charges last week against William Jarred Haynes, 24; David McLeskey, 59; Aaron Brian Hendricks, 35; and Joseph Allen Dills, 31.
The charges allege that McLeskey and Hendricks illegally used dogs to hunt black bears or cougars in June 2016. McLeskey, Haynes, and Dills are charged with illegally using dogs to hunt and kill a bear in July 2017; the 3 men face an additional misdemeanor for wasting the bear.
The four men are part of a larger ring of at least nine alleged poachers who have been charged in Washington with illegally hunting and killing animals, including bears and bobcats. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Captain Jeff Wickersham said they have already been charged in Skamania, Cowlitz, Lewis, Jefferson and Pacific counties.
In addition to the new charges in Clackamas County, Haynes, McLeskey, Hendricks, and Dills also face misdemeanor charges in Clatsop County. They have pleaded not guilty to crimes involving the illegal killing of bobcats in 2016. McLeskey and Dills will be arraigned later this month in Lincoln County on additional charges regarding the killing of a bear using dogs.
Two other men associated with the ring, Eddy Dills and Kyle Manley, were also charged in Clatsop County. Eddy Dills has pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor charges related to the illegal killing of animals. Manley was convicted of violating wildlife permit requirements and was fined $95, according to court records.
Digital evidence, including text messages and cell-phone photos and videos, helped law enforcement agencies’ investigation into the poaching ring. According to documents filed in Lincoln County, search warrants yielded photos with a Google map link location and texts regarding illegal hunts, placing the men in Lincoln County.
In October, Deputy Chief Mike Cenci of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife police told KOIN 6 News that he almost vomited when he discovered the extent of the killings.
“It made me sick to my stomach,” he said at the time.
Cenci has since retired.
Questions remain about motive – and the decision to share texts, photos, and videos of the killings.
“This I don’t understand, and I don’t think I’ll ever understand it,” WDFW police Sgt. Brad Rhoden said in October. “I don’t think they’ll be able to explain that.”