This week DNR Law Enforcement busted up an extensive poaching ring in Dodge and Laurens counties and served seven individuals with warrants on 113 poaching-related charges.
“In my 28 years with DNR Law Enforcement, I have worked a lot of cases, and I have never seen anything like it,” said Section Supervisor Sgt. Keith Byers. “I’m not taking credit for it; my guys did all the work, but I have never seen this amount of evidence and the kind of evidence we have on this case.”
The charges filed against the seven individuals range from hunting deer at night to possession of illegally taken wildlife, hunting out of season and taking over the bag limit. Most involve deer and turkeys, but there were also raptor parts found at one of the suspects residences. Additional charges may be possible.
Sgt. Byers would not give an estimate for the number of deer and turkeys killed by this poaching ring, but he did say there were in excess of 20 turkeys killed and numerous deer.
“There just ain’t no telling (how many they killed). It’s just unbelievable,” he said. “These people were without a doubt detrimental to the wildlife resources in our state and particularly in Dodge and Laurens counties.”
Those charged were: William Stacy Jones, 31, of Eastman (70 charges); Mary Michelle Warren, 28, of Eastman (17 charges); Michael Warren, 30, of Rentz (nine charges); Cody Coleman (aka Fat Girl), 21, of Marietta (six charges); Durwood “Trey” Graham III, 29, of Eastman (four charges); Summer Page, 28, of Rentz (four charges); and Brandon Brisco (aka Dirty Boy), 31, of Eastman (three charges).
The investigation began with complaints in March, and Cpl. Johnny Ashe charged Jones and Michael Warren with possession of illegally taken wildlife and hunting out of season for poaching turkeys on April 18. While investigating that case, Cpl. Ashe and Ranger Rodney Horne obtained search warrants for the residences of Jones and Warren, as well as a cabin owned by Warren. They found photographic and video evidence on confiscated computers and cell phones and also animal parts from illegally killed wildlife. That evidence allowed them to connect the dots and file charges on the other individuals, as well, said Byers.
Each misdemeanor count carries a maximum fine of up to $1,000 and up to a year in jail. Sgt. Byers said DNR will also seek hunting suspensions for those involved.
“These people do not have any respect for our game laws or our natural resources… none,” said Sgt. Byers. “I can’t say for sure, but there might have been some sort of competition going on. I don’t know, but they’ve done a lot of killing.”
Warrants were served this week (June 1-5) by Cpl. Ashe, Ranger Horne and Ranger Barry Britt with the final warrant being served June 5 just before 9 a.m., said Byers. All of the suspects have been arrested and released on bonds ranging from $1,500 to $15,000.