26 deer found dead in Pinetops; 5 charged
Posted January 5
Updated January 6
Pinetops, N.C. — When a tip led wildlife officers to a home in Pinetops Sunday morning, they could not believe what they found - 26 dead deer.
"The deer were in various states of decay," said Lt. Sam Craft, with North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. "Some were just the heads with the antlers, and others were whole deer left to lie in the field."
Sixteen heads, mostly of bucks, were found in the yard. Ten additional deer were found in various fields across the county.
One of the deer, shot and left for dead, was found wandering in a field. Its wounds were so severe, wildlife officers had to put it down.
"You don't know what to say to people who commit crimes like these," Craft said. "In the early stage of the investigation, it does not appear they were trying to feed their families."
Christopher Jason Jernigan, 18, of Elm City, is charged with night hunting and Timothy Austin Stamatis, 19, and Thomas Lee Ayers, 18, are charged with unlawful possession. James Chadwick Bowen Jr., 17, is charged with exceeding the season limit of bucks, night deer hunting and unlawful possession. Dylan Matthew Casper, 16, is charged with night deer hunting.
If convicted on the misdemeanor charges, each faces a $500 penalty and the cost to replace the deer - which would be about $15,000 total. They would also lose their hunting licenses for two years, according to officials.
Deer hunting season ended Jan. 1, and nighttime deer hunting is illegal.