Rodney Culverwell, left, and his defense attorney, Pamela Mackey, take notes Thursday morning during testimony presented by Colorado Division of Wildlife officials appearing for the prosecution. The trial resumes today in Moffat County District Court. Prosecutors said they could rest their case this afternoon.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

Rodney Culverwell, left, and his defense attorney, Pamela Mackey, take notes Thursday morning during testimony presented by Colorado Division of Wildlife officials appearing for the prosecution. The trial resumes today in Moffat County District Court. Prosecutors said they could rest their case this afternoon.

Culverwell case continues today in District Court

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A criminal case against a Moffat County rancher charged with poaching elk on his property this winter continues today in Moffat County District Court.

Rodney Culverwell, 41, is charged with 80 wildlife crimes, including 16 Class 5 felonies and 64 misdemeanors. His sentence could include jail time, parole, fines and hunting license suspensions.

Jeremy Snow, deputy district attorney for the 14th Judicial District Attorney's Office, said he could rest the state's case this afternoon and turn over testimony to the defense.

Possible witnesses for the prosecution include DOW officials and residents Tom Mikesell and Chris Jurney.

All but one witness for the prosecution thus far have been DOW officials.

Pamela Mackey, Culverwell's defense attorney, appeared as animated as she ever has this past week after a recount of the Colorado Division of Wildlife's search of her client's ranch Feb. 22.

Mackey has said her client killed "some" elk this winter because the DOW did not help him fend off wildlife that ate hay and destroyed property.

The 16 elk Culverwell is charged with poaching were seized during a DOW search of Culverwell's Rio Ro Mo Ranch on Feb. 22, the same day DOW Criminal Investigator Eric Schaller testified he knocked on Culverwell's door to speak about "game damage issues."

How Schaller introduced himself and when he decided to serve the DOW's search warrant were central questions in Mackey's cross-examination Friday as she alluded to possible improprieties in the investigation.

An hour-and-15-minute-long recording of Schaller's conversation with Culverwell and his wife, Margaret, showed the DOW investigator did not present his agency's search warrant until Culverwell resisted providing a rifle he owned, about halfway through the tape.

After questions from Mackey, Schaller said he waited because he wanted to build a "rapport" with the Culverwells because he knew some Moffat County ranchers have a "strained" relationship with the DOW.

Schaller's testimony described an investigation that wasn't always necessarily leading to criminal charges.

He told Mackey the DOW did not seek a third search warrant to search the Culverwells' home because the agency did not want to be insensitive to the ranchers. A warrant to search their home could have taken until midnight that day to be approved, and in that time the Culverwells would not be allowed to re-enter their house.

"If we had decided to be heavy-handed and do whatever we wanted regardless of what the Culverwells wanted, then yes, we could have done that," Schaller said. "We did not want to be heavy-handed with them. : Once this is said and done, Rodney Culverwell is still a rancher in Moffat County, and you can't just write that off because of a single incident."

More of Mackey's questions focused on when Schaller presented the search warrant. Mackey asked if the investigator's initial introduction to the Culverwells - to speak about game damage issues - was a "rouse" to trick the couple into confessing.

"No, I was there because I knew the Culverwells had problems with game damage issues," Schaller said. "I knew that there were animals that were dead and that there could be a criminal investigation. That was certainly part of why I was there, yes."

When Schaller showed the Culverwells the DOW's search warrant, he said there were other DOW officials already on the property around the hay stackyard alongside U.S. Highway 40.

Schaller testified he did not know when other DOW agents began searching and seizing items on the Culverwells' property, whether it was specifically before or after he made notice of the warrant.

Comments

allen13 6 years, 3 months ago

To those of you who bashed on Connie... I don't know her at all, but I do know for a fact of the accounts of drunken friends going out with Rodney blasting numerous animals is true. I hope that DA Snow will be smart enough to pull in some of those 'friends' as witnesses. With her being Rodney's X, people will downplay her testimony if it is presented before the Jury - but I doubt they'd downplay testimony of good ol' friends.

The bottom line to this whole thing is that Rodney took matters into his own hands, and went over and beyound what is lawful, and he has to be accountable - he is not above the law. This case will set the standard of how people will act in the future in regards to wildlife, hunting, poaching, etc.

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here_to_stay 6 years, 3 months ago

sounds to me like the DOW went above the law and started collecting evidence before they produced the warrent

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allen13 6 years, 3 months ago

There are times when justice is not served due to a technicality, which is a sad reality. And it's known that if you have a savvy enough lawyer, you can get away with murder. Regardless of the outcome, the majority of local people know exactly what went down on Rodney's ranch.

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here_to_stay 6 years, 3 months ago

so the fact that DOW failed to manage the population of wildlife (which is there job) to a point that they can't figure out how to controle it means that they have to go into law enforcement mode instead. You tell me how any of this proves that someone is at fault. Besides the past isn't on trial at this time there isn't anything but stories so you can't convict him on that either. IN the end two wrongs don't make it right and I hope the DOW can fix the problems that it has created before mother nature comes in and fixes the overpopulation and were left with nothing.

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allen13 6 years, 3 months ago

The DOW is not on trial either. They have their faults, no doubt. Two wrongs don't make a right - I see DOW doing things wrong, as well as the ranchers. It would be nice to get a "right" out of it. Did he kill elk without a license? Yes, Did he kill elk out of season? Yes. Did he go to extremes to 'protect his land'? Yes. Don't see any other alternative than a guilty verdict here.

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George Robertson 6 years, 3 months ago

Wow allen it must be nice to have such Godly judgemental powers. How about we let the trial run it's course and see what a jury of his peers comes up with?

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granny 6 years, 3 months ago

I used to live by him 13 years ago, ha ha he finally got caught. They should ask him on the stand how many years he's been killing the elk and deer.

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gobroncos 6 years, 3 months ago

It is the DOW's responsibility to manage the animals. Not give them birth control. They can't control the number of elk that are killed. There has been too many warm seasons with elk hunting for several years. I don't care how many licenses you issue. If the elk don't come out of the high country they will never get their projected kill rate. We have had very mild winters and therefore high numbers in calves. The elk are not migrating as far west in the winters so the park in a ranchers field. The DOW has done their job in managing the herds. It is mother nature who has made the hunting seasons difficult with mild weather. It is a sad thing but if mother nature decides to kill off some of the population of elk with starvation then we shouldn't mess with it. I don't like seeing it either but if you run out and feed them then we will have more of a population overload of elk. Rodney is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. I agree a good attorney should not be able to pick apart so called mistakes that they law enforcement didn't do their job perfect. If the evidence presents itself that he shot them then he shot them. It is not the DOW on trial it is Rodney period. A big $$$ lawyer is trying to overturn the case and that isn't right. He admitted to shooting the elk. He should be ashamed as a rancher, a hunter and a citizen of Moffat County for being unethical.

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buck523 6 years, 3 months ago

Part of the issue is the warm weather. The other issue is all the private property in Northwest Colorado. The animals get on this private property and are able to stay there as a refuge. Yes, they get hunted....but only by the high dollar hunters that can hunt and when they are hunted, there are ranch people patrolling the borders and herding the animals back in. I have seen this countless times. It is a bunch of crap when these same ranchers start whining about the elk on their property all winter. If the DOW and the ranchers really wanted to get the elk down to manageable numbers, let people onto the properties to hunt and get the animals down in numbers. One or two years of this and the elk numbers will go down. The other issue is Ranching for Rich People...errr, sorry I meant Ranching for Wildlife. These ranches can set their own dates to hunt and they usually let the animals seek great refuge on their lands during hunting seasons and then have their hunters go after them in between the regular seasons. There are ways to get the numbers down, but as long as people are getting rich off the elk, nobody will try too hard.

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gobroncos 6 years, 3 months ago

buck523.

I'll second that . The ranchers won't even consider letting a local on their property to hunt a cow. It might scare off those that have horns on their head. You know those bring a high price.

It is so hypocritical, they want the elk on their property when it is worth thousands of dollars but now that they are a nuisance they are crying wolf. I'm speaking specifically of this case.

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Joanna Hatten 6 years, 3 months ago

The color green is a very ugly thing. "Those Ranchers" make money off of thier land. Land THEY paid for. Land THEY pay taxes on. Land they have to maintain. That "Land" is their job. Do people say nasty things about you because perhaps you are fortunate enough to have a job that you make good money from? Money you use to support your family? Why should they let people on THEIR land for free? How much do you know about Ranching for Wildlife? Its not the cake walk you would like to make it out to be. Along with the BIG money they make from it comes BIG responsibilites and payments. I guess all I am saying is mind the weeds in your own back yard. It's NOBODY'S business how much money ranchers make off of THEIR LAND. Go buy some land, apply for ranching for wildlife, and then you too can lead "a life of pure undisputed bliss." P.S. Make sure you spend your first check from ranching for wildlife on a big haystack so your friends can come for dinner while your family starves.

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buck523 6 years, 3 months ago

The bottom line is the whining about the elk that they "hold captive" all fall, during the winter months once hunting season is over. By holding captive, I mean patrolling their borders and herding the elk back onto their land if they start to leave. By captive, I mean using radios and sitting on high mesas and telling their hunters where the elk are and then heading off in their trucks to cut them off before they can leave the property after the shots have been fired. I hunt all over Moffat County and have seen this. You are right, "getagrip", I'm sure there are lots of strings attached with hunting for wildlife, but it is a poorly managed program that is not really having the results that the DOW expected. If the ranchers, and many of my family are ranchers, want these elk off of their property, they need to let people in to hunt the cows....I didn't say bulls, only cows. Until this starts happening, I have a hard time feeling sorry for anyone who is whining in January when the elk are on their property.

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