With the last guilty plea, Pennsylvania Game Commission Wildlife Conservation Officer (WCO) Eric Seth, of Centre County, wrapped up a complex deer case from 2008, which resulted in a total of six convictions or guilty pleas and $14,743 in fines and penalties.
Following is a list of the individuals, the charges to which they pled guilty and their resulting fines: Rodger Lee Lucas, 28, of Howard, 10 counts of unlawful taking or possession of deer, six counts of unlawful use of lights, five counts of loaded firearm in vehicles, and one count of unlawful possession of a protected bird, and total fines $6,568; Matthew R. Dreibelbis, 29, of Aaronsburg, 10 counts of unlawful taking or possession of deer, four counts of unlawful possession of furbearers, three counts of unlawful acts concerning licenses, and one count of unlawful possession of a protected bird, and total fines $3,600; Chad Lee Titus, 28, of Blanchard, 11 counts of unlawful taking or possession of deer, one count of loaded firearms in vehicle, one count of unlawful use of lights, and one count of unlawful possession of protected bird, and total fines $3,775; Andy Joshua Titus, 22, of Blanchard; one count of unlawful taking or possession of deer, and total fines $500; and Karen Marie Kelley, 29, of Howard, one count of unlawful taking or possession of deer, total fines $300.
WCO Seth said that the investigation began in the fall of 2008, when a call was placed to the Game Commission toll-free Turn-In-a-Poacher, or TIP-line (1-888-PGC-8001).
“An individual reported the illegal killing of deer, and provided a name and vehicle description of the party involved,” WCO Seth said. “Area officers immediately began increased night patrols in the area searching for the suspect’s vehicle. Patrols continued through the fall with no success. On Dec. 3, 2008, the second day of two-week firearms deer season, the TIP-line received a second call noting that the suspect was at his residence in possession of illegal deer.
WCO Seth and Cliff Guidon, superintendent of the Game Commission’s Howard Nursery and a commissioned WCO, arrived at the residence and found Lucas and another individual in a shed, in possession of five fresh deer hides. Further investigation discovered more than 180 pounds of frozen venison, four loaded firearms, bloody knives, a meat grinder and two sets of antlers. A search of the vehicle found a spotlight, .22-caliber casings, knives, deer hair and blood in the trunk.
During interviews, it was learned that the meat from the fresh hides had been taken to another residence. Centre County WCO Christopher Deal and Deputy WCO John Kubalak responded to Dreibelbis’ home and found more than 150 pounds of fresh venison, along with another set of antlers and illegally harvested furbearers.
The investigation revealed the five deer had been killed illegally during the first two days of the season, with the remaining deer being killed throughout the fall with the use of a spotlight.
At the time, Lucas was on probation and was forbidden to be in possession of a firearm, and was placed in prison for three months for the violation. Also, Dreibelbis’ hunting privileges had been revoked due to an earlier conviction, which will result in further revocation.
Chad Titus was identified as a primary shooter, along with Lucas. Titus was implicated through statements Lucas made and, later that day, Titus admitted to his part. Karen Kelley’s vehicle was used when Lucas and Chad Titus were out poaching, and she was also present during the butchering of the five illegal deer. Andy Titus, brother of Chad Titus, had brought a single deer in to be butchered at the shed.
“Without the phone call from a concerned individual, this poaching may have continued, and losses to law-abiding hunters could have been greater,” WCO Seth said. “Thankfully, those responsible for these crimes against wildlife have been apprehended. But it is troubling to see what they were getting away with.
“Also, for those who may believe the myth that poachers are only trying to feed their families, it is important to note that, when we removed the venison from the freezer, it still was half full of beef and other frozen meat.”