UTAH COUNTY, Utah, April 15, 2019 (Gephardt Daily) — Three Utah County men have been charged with felony wanton destruction of protected wildlife after officials say they trapped a buck deer in a backyard and killed it.
The suspects in the case are Joshua Douglas Mooney, 28, of Pleasant Grove, and Jace T. Zeeman, 29, and Tanner Cole Zeeman, 24, both of American Fork.
A probable cause statement common to all three suspects says that a Utah Division of Wildlife Resources officer found evidence that the buck was killed by Mooney on or about Jan. 13 of this year, and that the Zeemans were present when Mooney killed the animal, valued at more than $8,000.
“Defendant T. Zeeman sent photos to a few friends of the deer,” says a probable cause statement filed in 4th District Court. “One individual received an image of the deer deceased in the bathtub.
“At the home, officers observed a fresh blood trail from the backyard to the neighbor’s yard. There were blood marks on the door as well. Defendant T. Zeeman originally denied knowledge of the deer. Officers later discovered through text messages that T. Zeeman helped trap and keep the deer in the backyard so that defendant Mooney could kill the deer.”
Officers contacted Mooney, who “refused to come to the door, but was aware of officers and attempted to hide and clean up evidence in the home,” says the statement, filed by an official of the Utah County Sheriff’s Office.
UCSO officials obtained a search warrant for the residence.
“The deer head was located under blankets and clothing in a closet,” the statement says. “Deer meat was packaged in moving boxes and put in a separate closet. The boxes were sprayed with cologne to hide the smell. The bathroom was cleaned with bleach but deer hair and ticks were found.”
Officers also found marijuana in a grinder, and several firearms, the statement said.
“Defendant Mooney admitted to smoking marijuana in the last few days. The bow that was used to the kill the deer was found in a case and the arrow was hanging on the kitchen wall,” the statement says.
“During the search warrant, defendant Mooney denied any involvement with killing the deer, but then later admitted he shot the deer with the bow. He then admitted to taking the deer through the backdoor of the house so others would not see.”
Text messages on Mooney’s phone indicated that Jace and Tanner Zeeman were present when the animal was killed.
“T. Zeeman gave the address to Defendant Mooney for the location of the deer so that Defendant Mooney could come and shoot the deer,” the statement said. “Other involved parties stated J. Zeeman helped Mooney get the deer and bring it into the home.”
All three men face initial charges of:
- Wanton destruction of protected wildlife, a third-degree felony
- Purchase, transport, possession or use of a firearm by a restricted person, a third-degree felony
- Obstruction of justice, a third-degree felony
- Possession of a controlled substance, a class B misdemeanor
- Use or possession of drug paraphernalia, a class B misdemeanor
None of the men were in custody as of Monday night.