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Two Gillette residents pleaded guilty Thursday for taking 11 elk and only possessing three tags from hunt area 48 in Washakie County last November, while three family members also pleaded guilty to unlawful transfer of a hunting license.
Eugene Thompson, 45, and his girlfriend Tanyae Maldonado, 37, told Fifth Judicial Court Judge Thomas P. Harrington that they had gotten carried away and didn’t notice any fallen elk in the herd, so they continued to fire. At least 11 elk had been killed by Thompson and Maldonado on Nov. 15, 2017, according to Wyoming Game and Fish Department investigators.
Thompson’s parents George Steele, 66, and Wanda Steele, 73, and sister Tammy Thompson, 53, also pleaded guilty to transfer of licenses.
Wildlife Investigator Daniel Beach stated in his investigative report that Eugene Thompson and Maldonado secured additional tags from George Steele, Wanda Steele, and another member of the hunting party. Two days later, security camera footage at the Casper Sportsman’s Warehouse showed a coordinated effort by Eugene Thompson, Maldonado, and two others from the hunting party to purchase additional licenses.
During the investigation, Eugene Thompson told investigators that he made sure not a single elk came off that mountain without a tag on it. He further said that he and Maldonado were “sick to their stomachs” when they discovered how many elk they had shot.
Washakie County Attorney John Worrall told the court, “An ethical hunter wouldn’t have had to think about contacting the authorities right away,” when they realized they made an error.
“If you shoot something, make sure it isn’t dead before you start shooting again,” said Worrall after the hearing. “I just don’t understand how you can make that error in judgment and not figure it out before you drop 11. That’s not sport at all.”
Among court costs and fees, Harrington suspended Eugene Thompson’s hunting privileges for nine years and Maldonado, George Steele, Wanda Steele and Tammy Thompson for six years each.
Worrall said that he felt the lengthy suspension of hunting privileges was the best option in this case rather than jail time or extremely high fines that the defendants would never be able to pay. “Hunting was a very important part of this family’s life. Taking that privilege away from them for so long sends a very strong message.”
A bill that would allow for displaying “In God We Trust” placards in Wyoming public school classrooms and state government buildings has died in the state Legislature.
KGAB-AM reports that House Bill 133 died when the Senate failed to vote on it. The bill had passed the House earlier.
Under the bill sponsored by Republican Rep. Cheri Steinmetz, of Lingle, placards donated by people would have been allowed to be displayed prominently in the state Capitol, the library and lobby of public schools and other state buildings.
Steinmetz had said that the “In God We Trust” phrase is the nation’s motto and is displayed at a lot of federal buildings as well as on U.S. currency.