DNR Rangers Investigating Widespread Poaching In Dodge And Laurens Counties

Rumors of political pressure denied adamantly by DNR officials.

Nick Carter | May 19, 2009

When DNR enforcement officers began looking closer at two men charged with turkey-related violations in south Georgia, it sparked an investigation that could bust up wide-spread illegal-hunting activities in and around Dodge and Laurens counties.

On April 18, Ranger Johnny Ashe charged William Stacy Jones, of Eastman, with possession of illegally taken wildlife and hunting without a big-game license. He also charged Michael Warren, 30, of Rentz, with possession of illegally taken wildlife and hunting out of season. DNR law-enforcement officials would not speak on the record about the turkey-related charges against these two men, other than to say those charges led to the ongoing investigation that appears to have grown into a much bigger case.

In the process of investigating Jones and Warren, Ranger Ashe and Ranger Rodney Horne, who is heading up the investigation, obtained search warrants for the suspects’ residences, which allowed them to confiscate animal parts, computers and cell phones. The electronic equipment has been turned over to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI).

“The GBI was supposed to look for information that was deleted from the computers. We’re waiting on that, and there are still interviews to be conducted,” said Capt. Scott Klingel, with DNR Law Enforcement.

Neither Capt. Klingel nor DNR Section Supervisor Sgt. Keith Byers would provide much information on the scale of the investigation or potential charges other than to say it could be wrapped up by the end of the month.

“It’s sort of a domino effect. In the next couple of three weeks, we’re going to sort everything out and know what charges are going to be filed,” said Sgt. Byers. “There are other people involved other than those where the search warrants were taken out. At this point, we’re still collecting evidence. I can tell you there will be multiple charges against multiple individuals.”

Rumors about the investigation have risen out of Dodge County recently with speculation that political pressure may be being leveled on DNR to not file or drop charges. Byers and Klingel were adamant in rebutting those accusations.

“I can assure you that nothing is being swept under the rug. These people have done a lot, and they are going to be charged. As far as detrimental stuff that can be done to our natural resources, these two are some of the worst,” said Sgt. Byers. “We’re going to be on top of these, I can promise. This is too big of a case, and there’s too much evidence. There are going to be charges filed at a later date.”

“There hasn’t even been a single phone call,” said Capt. Klingel, when asked whether the department was being pressured. “All of the inquiries have been about making sure the case moves forward and that charges are filed.”

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