By Ernie Over
The details of how four moose were slaughtered and then abandoned between Hudson and Arapahoe on October 15, 2012 were revealed in a change of plea hearing Friday in Ninth District Circuit Court in Riverton. The four defendants in the case, Phillip “Rocky” Hurtado and Phillip “PJ” Warren, both of Arapahoe, and Gillette residents Sammy Edlund and his fiance` Danielle Najera, all pleaded guilty in the case.
The four were originally charged with seven misdemeanor counts but they each accepted a plea bargain in which they admitted guilt for three of the allegations, including taking a big game animal-an antlered moose-in a closed season, wanton destruction of a big game animal, and entering closed property without permission.
Judge Wesley A. Roberts quizzed each of the convicted after they entered their guilty pleas about the events that led up to the slaughter, in which one of the group, Hurtado, testified that he went into the willows and brush along the edge of the Popo Agie River NE of Hudson to flush the animals out into the open. Meanwhile, Warren, Edlund and Najera testified that they were waiting on the top of a bluff overlooking the river, ready to shoot after the animals were spooked out of hiding. The poaching took place late in the day and the four testified that they tried “gutting” the two bulls even though it was dark. Najera said she had her cell phone with her and she turned on an LED light on the device that was the only light to work with. The four also only had a large knife to use and could only partially field dress two of the moose.
Each of the four said they did not realize that they were on private property, even though testimony revealed that they had to open and go through a gate to access the area where the moose were killed, which was identified as a pasture next to the river that was owned by the Majdic family. More....