The last man to be charged in the August, 1998, slaying of more than 65 deer and pronghorn antelope along Moffat County roads has pleaded guilty to seven felony and 10 misdemeanor charges.
Stanley Tipton, 18, changed his "not guilty" plea to "guilty" in exchange for a plea bargain that changed his case from a criminal trial to a juvenile investigation, making it impossible for him to receive prison time because of his crime.
In early August, 1998, a group of young men spent three summer nights spotlighting and shooting mule deer and pronghorn antelope from a Moffat County road. Sixty-five animals were counted dead or dying. An area resident saw the carnage and reported it to the Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW). Two months later, tips from concerned residents led to the arrests of Tipton, Josh Lawrence, 20, and Thomas Fondie, 19.
In May, Thomas Fondie, 19, was convicted and sentenced to one year in Moffat County Jail, 10 years of probation and fined more than $17,000. Last month, Lawrence was convicted of 27 felony counts of willful destruction of wildlife. Lawrence will receive his sentence on Oct.18.
Tipton will be sentenced Nov. 15 on seven charges of willful destruction of wildlife and 10 counts of illegal taking of wildlife.
According to 14th Judicial District Deputy District Attorney David Waite, the change in Tipton's case from criminal to juvenile impacts the sentencing. Waite said Tipton could still receive jail time or be placed in the Correctional Alternatives Placement System, but he will not be subject to a prison term.
The change in status is based on Tipton's age. Of the three nights of killing investigated, Tipton can only be tied to two that were before his 18th birthday. Investigators do not have enough evidence to prosecute him for killing animals on the night of Aug. 21, the only night Tipton was 18 years old.
Waite said he is not sure whether any more charges will be filed in this case. He said so far there is not enough evidence to connect any other participants to the crime.
He is pleased with the outcome so far.
"I think we've got good results," he said. "I'm hoping what we've done with these three will prevent others from doing the same thing."