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Green River man pleads guilty to destroying big game animals, ending years-long investigation

Green River Police Department

CASPER, Wyo. — A Green River man has served jail time and won’t be able to hunt for 10 years after ending a five-year investigation into the destruction of big game animals by pleading guilty.

Timothy Crooks was charged in October 2023 with five counts of wanton destruction of a big game animal and four counts of using a suppressor to take a big game animal, according to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. On Feb. 27, 2024, Crooks entered a change of plea, pleading guilty to the five counts of wanton destruction of a big game animal.

The charges of using a suppressor were dropped as part of a plea agreement.

Crooks was sentenced April 9 in Sweetwater County Circuit Court to 15 days in jail for each count, served concurrently, with credit for three days served. His hunting privileges were revoked for 10 years, and he forfeited the .22 Marlin rifle with scope and homemade suppressor.

The years-long case began with a deer being shot and left to die in a Green River neighborhood, Game and Fish said. 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.

On Aug. 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 Aug. 9, 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, determining 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 Aug. 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 Crooks’s residence on Aug. 17, 2023. Officers seized several firearms, ammunition and a homemade suppressor from Crooks’s 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. 

“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.”