Poaching charges: Video of family outing shows dogs kill injured bob cat

Tuesday, December 5, 2017 at 7:49 pm
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Aaron Hendricks and David McLeskey, seated, face a judge in Lewis County Superior Court

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A 35-year-old man, his father-in-law and a companion are charged with first-degree animal cruelty and other offenses for allegedly hunting bobcats with dogs in East Lewis County and allowing the canines at least once to maul their wounded target.

The evidence in the case comes from videos on a JVC camcorder seized from the Woodland home of Aaron B. Hendricks earlier this year and an interview with his now-11-year-old daughter who accompanied them on the outings, according to the allegations in court documents.

It was the huge poaching investigation that began in the Dalles, Oregon last year and resulted in numerous defendants charged in Skamania County that yielded evidence that led to the three men, Lewis County Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher said today.

Hendricks and David R. McLeskey, 58, both of Woodland, went before a judge this afternoon in Lewis County Superior Court.

They had been summonsed to appear.

Meagher told the judge both defendants have no criminal history and asked they be allowed release conditions with $5,000 unsecured bonds.

They are charged with first-degree animal cruelty – a felony with a maximum penalty of five years in prison – with unlawful hunting black bear, cougar, bobcat or lynx with dogs, and with second-degree unlawful hunting of wild animals.

None were properly licensed to hunt wildlife, specifically bobcats or bobcats using dogs, according to charging documents.

Hendricks and McLeskey pleaded not guilty.

Yakima lawyer Richard Smith, representing Hendricks, told the judge  that since the search warrant was served in March at his client’s home, he contacted every law enforcement officer in the other case to let them know they were available for questioning.

“Ultimately seven people were charged, we weren’t,” Smith said.

He said he reached out to Meagher to get his client’s case taken care of.

Judge Joely O’Rourke ordered the two men to get finger printed and photographed at the Lewis County Jail before Jan. 1.

She imposed no travel restrictions as they both work across state lines and granted Meagher’s request not to impose standard firearms prohibitions while their cases are pending.

The men waived their speedy trial rights to allow for the schedule of one of their lawyers. They were ordered to return to court on Feb. 8 to set their trial dates.

The two defense lawyers outside the courtroom didn’t want to answer reporters’ questions, but before the elevator doors finished closing, one of them stated: “We’re not connected to all that other stuff.”

McLeskey’s attorney is Stephen Hormel, out of Spokane.

Charging papers in the case describe how digital evidence in the original Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife case identified several additional suspects and co-conspirators in those unlawful hunts, including Hendricks and his father-in-law McLeskey.

The videos found at Hendricks residence in March were examined and showed the two men as well as Aaron C. Hanson, 38, of Kelso, participating in two bob cat hunts in Lewis County, according to the documents. Also present were Hendricks 9-year-old daughter and 10-year-old stepson, the documents relate.

The two unlawful hunts allegedly occurred on Nov. 27, 2015, near National Forest Service Roads 85 and 84, north of the Randle area.

“The video of the first hunt shows Hendricks walking on a snow covered logging road in snow early in the morning holding the camcorder,” Meagher wrote in the affidavit regarding probable cause.

Meagher writes that several dogs can be heard barking and the defendant pans the camcorder to a GPS device to record their location.

Subsequent video shows a bob cat up a tree with numerous barking dogs at the base, then Hanson posing with the dead wild cat, according to Meagher.

The second video is similar, showing a bob cat shot twice, pushed out the tree and immediately surrounded by dogs, Meagher states.

“(T)he video shows the bob cat attempting to defend itself, but the dogs begin to bite, pull, and crush the bobcat to death with undue suffering,” Meagher wrote.

In May, when Hendricks’ daughter was interviewed by law enforcement at her mother’s home in Longview, the videos were played for her and she was asked to identify those who were present.

She points out her dad, her grandfather and her dad’s friend, according to Meagher.

The friend, Hanson from Kelso, is expected to appear before a judge in Lewis County Superior Court tomorrow afternoon.

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3 Responses to “Poaching charges: Video of family outing shows dogs kill injured bob cat”

  1. Ony boy says:

    Here’s the rub.
    The last poacher from Morton got nailed with a $500 fine. Big Whoop! It took hundreds of thousands of law enforcement dollars to get that punk a $500 fine. Just how the heck does that equate into anything that could be considered a real form of punishment? $500 is most likely by far cheaper than had he went out and bought the permits to do it in the first place. That’s not a punishment, that’s a REWARD!

    These sort of crimes need to be hammered and hammered HARD! We’re not talking about a starving logger trying to feed a dozen kids, these psychopaths kill for the sheer thrill and rush of taking game animals illegally.

    Until such time as the courts take this form of public theft seriously and start nailing these punks, we’ll continue to have our game animal resources slaughtered and left to rot as often as they see fit to do it.

  2. LCCitizen says:

    True legit dangerous poachers deserve to lose their gun rights and be banned from holding a hunting license and permit. Take their fishing rights too.

    If these people are in fact found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

  3. spottedgrowl says:

    It is people like these fine gentleman, that have no regard for an animal’s life and don’t care how much pain and suffering the animal endures during their little family outing of murder, plunder, and pillage of our local wildlife, that are quite capable of doing the same to human beings. Studies have proven that most serial killers started out killing and torturing animals before moving on to humans. And how sick is it that they take the young children out with them to let them see a wounded bobcat pushed out of a tree by one of them only to be mauled by a pack of dogs until the cat is killed?!?! That is not teaching your children to be sportsmen. That is not teaching your children respect for animals. That is not teaching your children that life, any life, is valuable and precious. That is not teaching your children that the taking of any life is not something to be taken lightly. That is not teaching your children respect for authority or society or any of society’s rules and laws. That is not teaching your children ANYTHING THAT THEY NEED TO KNOW TO BE PRODUCTIVE, LAW ABIDING CITIZENS! It is blatant and willful disregard of laws, authority, the value of life, and respect for living things – even themselves. These poor kids won’t have a snowballs chance in Hell without some sort of intervention now to instill some morals and values. These guys are pigs that need to spend a good long time thinking about the damage they have caused to the environment and to their children. Throw the book at them! I pray they get exceptional sentences and huge fines! I think about 5-10 years is about appropriate in this case…

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