Three St. Mary's Hunters Charged with Illegal Hunting

ANNAPOLIS—Two men and a juvenile have been charged with illegal deer hunting as the result of an extensive investigation by the Maryland Natural Resources Police and the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office.

Justin Arthur Cook, 18, of Ridge, and a 17-year-old male from Scotland were charged on March 27 with hunting deer with the aid of a spotlight after officers from both agencies were alerted to a butchered deer carcass dumped in the middle of Point Lookout Road.

Cook also was cited for using a rifle in a shotgun-only county, having a loaded firearm in a vehicle and shooting on or across a roadway. The juvenile received three additional citations for aiding and abetting Cook. A third man, Patrick William Ridgell, 18, of St. Inigoes, was charged with aiding and abetting the spotlighting activity.

Additional charges are being pursued by the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office.

After finding the deer in the roadway at 12:30 p.m. on March 22, an NRP officer received a tip naming the juvenile as responsible for dumping the carcass. Officers and a sheriff’s deputy went to the juvenile’s home and found blood stains and deer hair on the property and a pick-up truck owned by Ridgell, who lives with the juvenile’s family.

The juvenile denied having anything to do with the carcass dumping. But the deputy noticed a rifle with a home-made noise suppressor attached on the backseat of a car parked in the front yard.

The investigation revealed text messages between the juvenile and Cook that spelled out the illegal hunting activity that took place the previous night. While being questioned by NRP, Cook and the juvenile acknowledged shooting the deer while driving along Beachville Road. They enlisted Ridgell’s help to get the deer from the field to the juvenile’s home, where they butchered it.

Afterward, they dumped the carcass on Point Lookout Road.

Cook told NRP officers that he had killed as many as 13 deer during the 2014-15 season and that he had checked in, perhaps, eight of them. However, state harvest records showed just three deer checked in.

The defendants are scheduled to appear in St. Mary’s District Court on June 6. If found guilty, Cook could be sentenced to a maximum of six months in jail and fined as much as $6,500. He also could have his hunting privileges revoked for up to five years. The juvenile faces similar penalties. Ridgell could be sentenced to up six months in jail, fined a maximum of $2,000 and have his hunting privileges revoked for up to five years.

Source: Maryland Natural Resources Police

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