By Mike Jones
His alleged accomplice was found guilty of illegally purchasing a hunting license to tag the deer in the Oct. 11 killing
The accused Washington Cemetery deer poacher claims the state Game Commission has its crosshairs on the wrong hunter.
In lengthy comments made to a reporter Thursday, moments after his alleged accomplice was found guilty of illegally purchasing the hunting license to be used to tag the dead deer, Richard Bartoletti said it was the Game Commission’s informant that shot the nine-point buck with a bow at Washington Cemetery Oct. 11.
Bartoletti, 48, of North Fayette Township, claims the man who was with him in his truck, Kelly McClelland, set him up with investigators, brought bread to lure deer and killed the buck from the passenger seat.
McClelland, who was working as an informant for the Game Commission, testified last month against Bartoletti during a preliminary hearing and again Thursday at Elaine Strnisha’s summary trial for illegally buying a hunting license. Strnisha’s hunting license, which she purchased the day before the Oct. 11 killing, was found in Bartoletti’s truck as authorities arrested him. She claimed she forgot it, but Game Commission Officer Dan Sitler said Strnisha bought it so Bartoletti, whose hunting license was revoked a year ago, could hunt and tag a “bullwinkle” in the cemetery.
Sitler said Strnisha did not take the proper hunting safety course and conspired with Bartoletti to use her tag for the buck. Strnisha told District Judge Robert Redlinger she had no knowledge of plans for the poaching.
“I don’t understand why I’m getting charged with poaching the deer,” she said. “I wasn’t there. I was nowhere near there. This is a travesty.”
Redlinger found Strnisha, 49, of Canonsburg, guilty of illegally acquiring a license and improperly loaning the license, while the more serious charge of conspiring to poach the deer was dismissed. Strnisha was fined $487, though she said she will appeal the judge’s verdict.
Meanwhile, Bartoletti had harsh words for the Game Commission officer and McClelland, whom he claimed conspired against him. He said he went to Washington Cemetery to get evidence against McClelland, and claims Strnisha was listening on a muted cell phone as the informant shot the deer.
“They’re lying about everything. It was a set-up,” Bartoletti said. “I knew it was a set-up.”
McClelland declined to discuss the case after the trial.
“I ain’t bringing anything up right now,” he said.
Meanwhile, Sitler said investigators have more information they plan to use at Bartoletti’s trial on a litany of charges that include poaching, illegally shooting a weapon in a cemetery and using another person’s hunting tag. A trial date has not been set.
“We have ample evidence,” Sitler said. “This is a cut-and-dried case.”