More than a year after police busted a massive Pacific Northwest poaching ring accused of killing game animals with hound dogs and leaving many carcasses to rot, criminal cases against the alleged poachers continue to wind through the legal system.
Prosecutors across at least seven counties in Washington and Oregon have filed cases against roughly one dozen people alleged to have been involved in the ring, which operated mostly out of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and allegedly killed more than 50 animals.
Four Longview men are accused of some of the most heinous acts and appear to have been the most active members of the groups: father-and-son duo Eddy and Joseph Dills, William Haynes, and Erik Christian Martin. All were charged in Skamania County Superior Court with numerous counts of big game hunting and illegal hunting with the aid of dogs.
Joseph Dills pleaded guilty and was convicted of four counts each of first-degree big game hunting, illegal hunting with dogs and wasting wildlife in late October. 52 other charges against him were dropped. He will be sentenced in February.
Eddy Dills’ trial is scheduled to begin Tuesday. He faces 26 charges.
Haynes faces 61 charges and Martin faces 28, most for big game hunting or illegal hunting with dogs. Both men will be tried by jury on December 10.
The far-reaching investigation led to accusations of the killing of dozens of game animals including deer, elk, bears and bobcats. Investigators found a trove of digital evidence after Haynes and Martin filmed and photographed more than 20 alleged brutal killings. In some cases, bears were still alive as Dill’s dogs gnawed on their flesh, according to Washington Fish and Wildlife Sergeant Brad Rhoden.
Other defendants, many of whom were charged earlier this year, were also convicted this fall. Aaron Hendricks was convicted of one count of illegal hunting with dogs and sentenced to 364 days in jail with all days suspended in late October. Bryan Tretiak was convicted in 2017 of second-degree big game hunting and sentenced to 14 days of community service, with a year sentence suspended as long as he doesn’t engage in hunting and doesn’t possess hunting dogs for two years.
David McLeskey was convicted of first-degree big game hunting, illegal hunting with a dog and wasting wildlife in Skamania County, and convicted of two counts of illegal hunting with dogs in Lewis County. He still faces a charge of first-degree animal cruelty in Pacific County court.
Many of those men and others allegedly involved face charges in Wasco, Clatsop, Lincoln and Clackamas counties in Oregon as well.