Man convicted in wildlife slaughter | CraigDailyPress.com

Man convicted in wildlife slaughter

Second participant in deer, antelope shooting spree could face jail time, heavy fines

Christina M. Currie

Josh Lawrence, 20, one of three young men accused of killing more than 34 deer and pronghorn antelope in Northwest Colorado, was convicted of 27 felony counts of willful destruction of wildlife Thursday. The conviction could get Lawrence up to six years in prison and a $100,000 fine for each count when sentenced by 14th Judicial District Court Judge Joel Thompson on Oct. 18.

Lawrence’s mother, Sandy, said the trial was not a fair one.

“It shouldn’t have been held in Moffat County because we’re the hunting capital of Colorado,” she said. “People in Moffat County are more concerned with their hunting privilege than the people. They care more about the hunting quality.”

Lawrence is the second of three known participants to be convicted in an August 1998 three-day shooting spree. 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. The third participant, Stanley Tipton, 18, will face a jury on Oct. 19.

Another man, Jeff Duncan, might have also been a participant, but he has not been charged.

The lack of charges against other participants is something that also concerns Sandy Lawrence. According to her, there were at least three to four more boys who participated in the slaughter, but who were not interviewed or charged.

According to Division of Wildlife spokesman Mike Bauman, the investigation into the kills is still ongoing. He would not comment on specifics of the cases.

In early August, 1998, Lawrence and three friends allegedly spent three summer nights spotlighting and shooting a herd of deer and pronghorn antelope from a Moffat County road. An area resident saw the carnage and reported it to the Division of Wildlife. Two months later, tips from concerned residents led to the arrests of Lawrence, Fondie and Tipton.

Ballistics tests linked a bullet from Lawrence’s .22-caliber Ruger rifle to one of the animals slaughtered. But the finding of one bullet and the connection to the slaughter of 27 animals is weak, Sandy Lawrence said. The conviction based on that evidence was the result of a biased jury, she said.

“He didn’t do it,” she said. “He was found guilty of 27 counts because he knew about it, but didn’t tell anyone. Here if you knew about it you’re as guilty as if you did it.”

According to Sandy Lawrence, her son was offered a plea bargain but didn’t take it because he thought he would be vindicated.

This is a case of the Division of Wildlife trying to set an example, she said.

The DOW considers the conviction a success.

“I’m real pleased at this point in the process,” Bauman said. “There have now been two convictions. We are hoping the sentencing that is forthcoming for Josh Lawrence serves as a strong detriment to people who contemplate this type of thing. This just shows the people of Moffat County will not tolerate this indiscriminate killing of a valuable resource.”