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Whitetail Trophy Obsession: Lies, Poaching and Murder (Part 2)

This is the conclusion of a two-part story about a long-term case involving a massive poached white-tailed buck and murder

Whitetail Trophy Obsession: Lies, Poaching and Murder (Part 2)
This is the remains of a poached white-tailed buck. The head was all that was taken by the poacher. (Photo courtesy of Carlos Gomez)

In my last writings, I posed a number of questions. Initially, a woman had brought in a huge buck – nearly 200 inches – to be scored. This raised my suspicions because the boyfriend who reportedly harvested the trophy did not participate in any way in witnessing the monster's scoring process.

The man and woman had lived in a heavily poached area adjacent to soybean fields and a large river. Within a few hundred yards of the couple's double-wide mobile home, I'd found a dumped buck carcass missing only the cape and head from its huge 28-inch neck. And, one year later, the sheriff's office would be investigating the woman's death from a high-powered rifle bullet to the head.

The couple had a well-documented history of going toe-to-toe on many a fiery, domestic occasions that sometimes even included gunfire. And lastly, when authorities arrived at the scene of the dead woman's last stand, it was the middle of the night where their double-wide mobile home would be a smoldering heap of rubble.

Unfortunately, the night the woman's body was found lying lifeless in the couple's front yard, it had rained several inches of pounding rain. So, very little evidence could be conclusively examined. A freshly fired .30-06 rifle still lay in the rain puddles near the woman's body. It continued to rain heavily while investigators erected tents over strategic areas of potential evidence in hopes of finding forensic clues to confirm what really happened.

There was only one living witness – the boyfriend – and he had little to contribute. When detectives took him in for questioning, all he could say was "I was asleep!"

The “sleep defense” was hard to believe but proved impenetrable. The witness said they fought frequently but always just went off to bed, including the night of the incident. On this night, he woke to the sound of fire and the smell of heavy smoke, his bed and numerous places throughout the house were engulfed by fire. He said he thought she'd squirted lighter fluid throughout the home and even surrounding his bed. When he jumped to his feet, the rain was pounding outside and she was discovered dead in the front yard.

Whitetail Trophy Obsession Lies, Poaching and Murder
This is a photo of the remains of the couple’s house after it burned. (Photo courtesy of Carlos Gomez)

When emergency responders arrived at the smoldering scene, they found the man sleeping. Yes, sleeping in the front seat of his little truck, seat reclined, where it contained only a few of the man’s sparse belongings and one larger item.

Strapped in by the seatbelt of the truck's passenger seat was this very large whitetail mount. Yes, that same shoulder mount of a nearly 200-inch deer. The man explained how in his haste to escape the raging flames throughout the house, he ran for the door and simply grabbed the head off the wall as he went. After no responsibility or conclusions of guilt could be proven, the man was released from questioning and promptly moved away from the region.

Am I just an overly suspicious game warden with an active imagination? Or, does the massive trophy deer mount lay at the center of this mystery?

Given the couple's volatile, violent past, maybe the woman wanted the man dead and the home destroyed? If so, it doesn’t explain the fatal gunshot to the head, and it doesn’t explain why the deer mount was the item to survive the fire.

The homicide investigators never caught on to any significance of the deer head being almost the only thing saved from the burning home.

What do you think?

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