GR man pleads guilty to deer shootings in local neighborhood

A years-long case of deer being shot and left to die in a Green River, Wyoming neighborhood has been resolved. Over five years, at least five deer were shot and killed in the area of Arkansas Drive. During their investigation, Game Wardens and the Green River Police Department responded to numerous calls about dead or injured deer and recovered bullets from three of the deer. The case was recently settled thanks to cooperation from numerous reporting parties and a collaborative investigation between state and local officials.

On August 17, 2018, Game wardens were called to a home on Arkansas Drive to investigate a doe deer that appeared to have been shot. Witnesses had heard what sounded like shots from a small caliber rifle in the early morning hours and later found the doe deer dying near a home. Witnesses also reported a bullet hole in their garage door. Game wardens analyzed the scene to determine the trajectory of the bullet and interviewed neighbors but were unable to identify a suspect. 

Nearly three years later, on August 09, 2021, wardens were called to Arkansas Drive to investigate a deer that was suspected to have been shot - and a bullet was recovered from the buck deer that appeared to have come from a small caliber rifle. Wardens learned from an animal control officer that another buck deer had been removed by city workers from the neighborhood that morning and taken to the landfill. A game warden went to the landfill and necropsied that buck deer and determined it had been shot as well, though the bullet had passed through the animal and was not recovered.

In September 2022, students at Harrison Elementary School found an injured buck deer near their playground. At first glance, the deer appeared sick, but during a necropsy, a bullet was found lodged beneath the animal's skin. On August 12, 2023, wardens were called again to the neighborhood on Arkansas Drive for a report of a doe mule deer believed to have been shot, and wardens recovered a bullet from that deer as well. 

Wyoming Game Wardens and the Green River Police Department executed two search warrants on the residence of Timothy Crooks on August 17, 2023. Officers seized several firearms, ammunition and a homemade suppressor from Crooks' residence. Three bullets were sent to the DCI crime lab in Cheyenne, along with firearms seized under the search warrants in August 2023. Ballistics testing confirmed that bullets recovered from the buck deer in 2022 and the doe deer in 2023 had been fired from the same .22 caliber Marlin rifle seized during the search in August. The bullet recovered from the buck mule deer in 2021 was too degraded to positively identify or eliminate that it had come from the same rifle. 

In October 2023, Crooks was charged with five counts of wanton destruction of a big game animal and four counts of using a suppressor to take a big game animal. On February 27, 2024, Crooks entered a change of plea, pleading guilty to five counts of wanton destruction of a big game animal. The charges of using a suppressor were dismissed as part of the plea agreement. On April 09, 2024, Crooks was sentenced in the Sweetwater County Circuit Court to 15 days in jail for each count, served concurrently, with credit for three days served after his arrest in October 2023. In addition to jail time, Crooks' hunting privileges were revoked for ten years. Crooks also forfeited the .22 Marlin rifle with scope and a homemade suppressor.

"I would like to thank the numerous reporting parties who promptly reported the injured, dying, and dead mule deer. Accurate and timely reports often make the difference in whether or not a case can be solved. Without these reports and the assistance of the Green River animal control officers and the Green River Police Department, this investigation might still be ongoing," said Justin Dodd, Rock Springs Game Warden. "I would also like to thank the Sweetwater County Attorney's office for their assistance in resolving this case."

 

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