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Published: Tuesday, 6/20/2006

Deer, mussel poachers pay the price

Five Meigs County men have been convicted and fined more than $4,600 for poaching white-tailed buck deer following an 18-month investigation in southern Ohio.

The poachers - including a grandfather, father, and son - were charged with 37 misdemeanor violations, including spotlighting deer, hunting deer with a rifle, and improper tagging, all from two townships in their home county, the Ohio Division of Wildlife said.

Charles B. Williamson, 40, of Rutland, Ohio, was found guilty of 18 violations and was fined $2,320 and assessed $1,260 in court costs. He also was sentenced to 90 days in jail, with 76 days suspended, had hunting privileges suspended for five years, and was ordered by Meigs County Court judge Steven Story to complete 150 hours of community service and to serve five years probation.

A son, Charles B. Williamson Jr., 20, of Rutland, was found guilty of 10 violations and ordered to pay $1,000 fines and $700 court costs. He also was ordered jailed for 90 days, with 80 days suspended pending five years probation. He was ordered to perform 150 hours of community service.

Danny Gheen, 35, of Long Bottom, Ohio, paid $365 in fines for three tagging violations.

Ryan Rowe, 29, of Rutland, paid $370 in fines and court costs on two violations.

Charles E. Williamson, 63, of Rutland, the grandfather in the family poaching clan, had to pay $590 in fines and costs on four violations.

State wildlife investigator Charles Stone and state wildlife officer Keith Wood started receiving tips on the poaching gang's activities in January, 2005, according to the Ohio Division of Wildlife.

The lawmen found 17 illegally killed bucks, nine of which had been spotlighted and shot with a rifle. The rest were improperly tagged or taken with a hunting arm not legal for the particular season.

Three mounted bucks and 13 sets of antlers seized as part of the case were ordered forfeited by the court. With two exceptions the poached bucks were at least 2 1/2-years-old and all carried antlers having eight points or more.

Commentary: The thoroughly disgusting, crass activity of these slobs goes beyond the pale. Such piggish behavior is inexcusable. It is a pity that these low-lifes were not banned from the field forever. You hear of stuff like this, call 1-800-POACHER.

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Three Tennessee men reported earlier to have stolen 1,763 pounds of freshwater mussels from the Muskingum River in southern Ohio have been convicted of 15 charges related to poaching of mussels, the state wildlife division reports.

Timmy Dale Rutherford, 34, of Eva, Tenn., and Kevin Black, 28, of Camden, Tenn., each was convicted of five violations. Each was fined $3,000 and assessed court costs. Their equipment, including a Ford F-250 diesel pickup truck and scuba diving gear, was forfeited. Each poacher served 11 days in jail, with Marietta Municipal Court judge Janet Welch suspending the remainder of their 180-day sentences.

Kirk Benson, of Camden, Tenn., was found guilty of five violations and fined $2,000 and court costs. He served 33 days in jail.

"We really appreciate the assistance of the Marietta police department in this case," said Tom Donnelly, law enforcement supervisor for Ohio Wildlife District 4 at Athens.

The poaching was discovered when a Marietta policeman on patrol observed a man in a wetsuit in a hotel parking lot at 4 a.m. May 11. The lawman called state wildlife officers, who in turn seized 17 bags containing 2,386 mussels, plus the truck and gear.

All the mussels were returned to the river in hopes of saving the ones still alive.

Prior to the 1800s the Muskingum was home to 63 species of mussels, but only about 35 species now survive and many of those are on the state's endangered or threatened lists. Fourteen of the mussels stolen were confirmed as endangered species.

Freshwater mussels are valued for the inner shell linings in the cultured pearl industry overseas. Small beads made from mussel shells are inserted into certain species of Pacific oysters to produce cultered pearls.

Ohio is among states where taking any mussels, however, is forbidden.

Commentary: Again, as with the buck-poaching bums, you can only ask: From under which rocks did these creeps crawl? Shame, and shame again. Such behavior casts a pall on all outdoors men and women.



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