By Andy Walgamott
A tip that turkeys were being poached southeast of the Okanogan Highlands burg of Chesaw led to the arrest of a fugitive from justice this past Saturday.
Washington fish and wildlife officers say a 51-year-old white male who’d been living at a trailer in these scenic hills for eight months allegedly baited in and shot seven turkeys over piles of corn. Probable cause documents also say he attempted to barter one bird to a neighbor to get his driveway plowed, and that he was operating an illegal still out of his kitchen and selling homebrew to locals.
The man was apparently trying to live off the grid, and for good reason: he had all sorts of government agencies interested in his current whereabouts.
With felony convictions in his past, he was also not supposed to have guns.
At the trailer officers say they found four firearms, including a Remington 7mm bolt-action rifle, Marlin .22-caliber semi-automatic rifle, and two .44-caliber blackpowder pistols. All were loaded with bullets in the chamber and within easy reach, and one was propped by the door of his trailer, according to court documents.
They also found a replica gold U.S. Marshall’s badge on his table.
Officers were able to put the case together quickly from tip to arrest. It started this past Thursday with a citizen who came forward and told Sgt. Dan Christensen that several people in the Pine Chee development had been knowingly killing turkeys outside of the regular season, which doesn’t begin until April 15.
Christensen and Officer Jason Day went on a plain-clothes patrol there to scope things out — and got a rude reception.
According to WDFW Law Enforcement’s Facebook page post on the case, they were “contacted and harassed by one of the suspects who, like many people living ‘off the grid’ in the area, are extremely wary of visitors they do not recognize.”
In fact, just a mile and a half east of here is where grouse hunter Michael Carrigan of Hoquiam was shot and killed last September allegedly by two local men who were subsequently arrested.
On Saturday Christensen and several other WDFW officers as well as county deputies served search warrants on three residences, two off Mule Deer Ridge Road and one off Indian Camp Road.
At one of the Mule Deer Ridge homes officers allegedly found two turkeys which the owners said had come from the fugitive, according to the probable cause document.
At the other abode a man told them he had been offered a turkey to plow the suspect’s driveway, but had refused the offer because the bird hadn’t been gutted or cleaned, say court papers.
At the fugitive’s residence just up Indian Camp Road, and which is described as a camp trailer in court documents, officers presented the man with the warrant. He read it and told them, “You have the wrong place, no (person by a name) lives here.”
Asked his name, the man replied “Mike” then gave a last name, but had difficulties remembering when he’d been born — either the 4th or 6th of July, 1967 — which he blamed on his pacemaker, say the papers.
Officers ran the given name through the State Patrol database but didn’t get a hit, confronted him about it and got his real name, which set the troopers’ computer abuzz.
The probable cause documents say:
"WSP Communications returned with multiple felony warrants for the arrest of (the suspect). The warrants include a Washington State Department of Corrects escape from community custody, a Thurston County fail to register as a sex offender, and a Fail to appear warrant for DUI. The subject was taken into custody by the officers. The subject also had a no contact order that included a “Brady” provision for no access to firearms. The subject was Statement of Probable Cause listed as a convicted felon for Child Molestation, possession of stolen property, and fail to register as a sex offender."
When the suspect’s wife returned home, she attempted to claim the 7mm, but officers raised their eyebrows about her size and the large caliber of the rifle, not to mention that it was set up for a left-handed shooter and the man happened to sign seizure documents with his left hand.
They say that he also admitted that one of the blackpowder pistols was his. One was for a southpaw, the other for a righthander.
Shortly afterwards officers hauled the man off to jail. More....