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CJ Baker

Three area men owe a combined $17,000 in fines and restitution for poaching seven mule deer from a truck while driving up and down the Chief Joseph Highway on a night in 2009.

As a part of their sentences for the illegal killings, 26-year-old Thomas G. Howard, 30-year-old Douglas Hutchins and 26-year-old Cody Waters have each been placed on unsupervised probation and banned from hunting or fishing for the next six years.

All three men had confessed to the poaching after being confronted by Powell Game Warden Chris Queen in 2010 and each finalized plea agreements with the Park County Attorney’s office over the last month. Waters was the last to be sentenced, on Tuesday in the Powell Circuit Courtroom.

Court records say the string of killings started on the evening of Nov. 5, 2009 when Howard, accompanied by Waters and Hutchins, drove up the Chief Joseph Highway (Wyo. 296).

At some point, Howard saw a buck, parked his truck in a turn-out and shot the mule deer. Howard had a general license, but that area is limited quota and the deer was actually on the Two Dot Ranch’s property, wrote Queen in an affidavit submitted in support of the cases against the three men.

The trio went back to Hutchins’ house off the Belfry Highway (Wyo. 120), but sometime around midnight, Howard said he wanted to go out and shoot more deer, Hutchins and Waters later told Queen.

After initially objecting, the two — who had drank “a considerable amount of beer” — eventually agreed, the affidavit says. Sometime around 12:45 a.m., they got in Howard’s pickup and rode to Dead Indian Pass on the Chief Joseph Highway.

On the west side of the pass, between the first and second switchbacks, Howard swung the vehicle to the right, rolled down his window and shot a doe deer, Hutchins and Waters told Queen.

The animal was put in the back of truck.

The trio then headed back up to the pass, and Hutchins, riding in the passenger seat, shot a doe.

That deer also was loaded up.

Howard then drove back down the pass, where Waters shot a doe from the rear driver’s side window.

The dead animal was also put in the back of the pickup.

“Hutchins and Waters stated they killed three more doe deer that night in the same order: Howard, Hutchins, then Waters with each person killing two doe mule deer,” wrote Queen.

Hutchins told Queen the bed of the pickup was full of deer at that point and had no more space.

The three men drove back to the house and quartered the animals. The carcasses were dumped at a pullout along Wyo. 120 near Skull Pass, where a Game and Fish Biologist came upon them hours later.

The affidavit does not specify how law enforcement were tipped off to the men’s involvement, but Deputy Park County Attorney Tim Blatt said his understanding is that there had been bragging about it, along with photos of Howard with the poached buck. Some of the information apparently got back to the Two Dot’s hunt manager, who, in turn, tipped off Queen.

After the September 2010 tip, Queen interviewed Waters and then Hutchins about their involvement with the poached buck and both fessed up. The following day, the two men contacted Queen and volunteered that they had been involved in the killing of the six other deer, the affidavit says.

Hutchins and Waters stressed that they had eaten the deer meat and that none had been wasted, Queen wrote.

Howard — who also admitted his role in the incident — had stored some of the meat in a freezer and mounted the head of the buck.

As a part of his sentence, the stiffest of the three, Howard had to turn over the mount or serve 45 days in jail. The now Colorado Springs resident turned the skull in, Blatt said.

Howard was ordered to pay $4,420 in fines and court costs plus $3,000 to the Game and Fish Department as restitution for the three deer. He pleaded guilty to three counts of hunting from inside a vehicle, two counts of hunting by artificial lights, two counts of taking deer without a license and one count of trespassing on Two Dot Ranch land. Howard was also given a year of unsupervised probation on the misdemeanor convictions.

Hutchins and Waters received six months of unsupervised probation after each pleading guilty to two counts of taking a deer without a license and two counts of hunting by artificial light. The Cody residents must also each pay $2,780 in fines and court costs along with $2,000 in restitution.

Circuit Court Judge Bruce Waters — of no relation to Cody Waters — approved the plea agreements.

County set for first contested primary in years for House District 50 and Senate District 18

After each going unchallenged for their last five terms, longtime state legislators Hank Coe and Pat Childers of Cody both will face opponents in August’s Republican primary election.

Cody City Councilman Charles Cloud and former Park County Republican Party Chair David Northrup of rural Powell each announced last week that they’re running for the House District 50 seat held by Rep. Childers. Meanwhile, Cody TEA party activist Bob Berry announced he’s challenging Sen. Coe in Senate District 18 (see related story).

A lawsuit claiming that federal bear researchers’ actions led to the fatal mauling of an Illinois man has been set for an early December trial date.

Erwin F. Evert was killed in June 2010 by a grizzly bear recovering from researchers’ tranquilizers in the Shoshone National Forest.

The 70-year-old man’s widow, Yolanda Evert, alleges in a suit that the federal Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team violated bear trapping protocols and ultimately caused Evert’s death. The primary allegations are that a two-man field crew negligently took down signs warning of the tranquilized bear and left before it was fully awake.

The government, represented by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, denies the allegations.


Some access limited while upgrades installed
Construction work under way at the Park County Fairgrounds will bring improved and expanded electrical service and lighting. While the work is in progress, access to some parts of the fairgrounds’ east end is limited to ensure public safety and timely completion of the project, a news release from the Park County Fair Board said.

Visits to Yellowstone National Park this winter were a lot like last winter.

A total of 89,279 visitors went to the park between the Dec. 15 opening of the winter season and its closure on March 15, according to National Park Service statistics. That was up about half-a-percentage point from the 2010-11 winter season.

Asks for case to be dismissed

The former CEO of Powell Valley Healthcare is denying allegations by the hospital’s management company that he embezzled nearly $848,000 from the organization.

In a Tuesday response to a civil suit filed against him by HealthTech Management Services Inc., Paul D. Cardwell denied all the allegations and asked for the suit to be dismissed.

A new multi-use facility for the Park County Fairgrounds may come later rather than sooner.

At a Wednesday night meeting, local residents gave county fair overseers encouragement and advice to take their time on plans to construct an estimated $4 million building.

The advice seemed well-received by Park County Commission Chairman Tim French — who recalled extensive meetings planning the current jail — and Fair Board President Rob Newkirk.

Some Clark residents are calling on Park County commissioners to give them a place to keep dumping their trash when the Clark landfill closes to household waste this fall.

Commissioners have not committed to providing any service for household trash after the Clark landfill closes to such waste on Sept. 18. Some have expressed reluctance to go beyond running the landfills and get into the trash “transportation” business.

When Cleveland Indians’ pitcher Justin Masterson tosses the first pitch of the team’s season today, there will be a proud Powell uncle watching from the stands.

“To have a nephew — or, for my brother, a son — pitching opening day for a Major League Baseball team, that is a thrill for the whole family and beyond,” Powell resident Mike Masterson said Tuesday.

A June 4 trial has been set for the federal criminal cases against a former Powell Valley Healthcare official and an Indiana man who are alleged to have conspired to embezzle nearly $850,000 from the organization.

Former PVHC Chief Executive Officer Paul D. Cardwell and Michael J. Plake of West Lafayette, Ind., pleaded not guilty to 15 felony counts at their arraignment in U.S. District Court in Cheyenne last week.

The two men are free on $50,000 unsecured bonds pending their next court appearance, but are prohibited from traveling outside of Wyoming and Indiana without permission from federal authorities. Court records say Cardwell will be living with his mother in Tipton, Ind., while Plake will remain at his West Lafayette, Ind., home.

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