By Ryan Lengerich: CNJ staff writer
Three suspects have been questioned in connection with five deer killed, beheaded and dumped on a Ranchvale farm, a state wildlife official said.
One suspect admitted to shooting the deer and tossing the heads into a Pleasant Hill pond, but an extensive search refuted that claim, said Wes Robertson, a New Mexico Department of Game and Fish game warden based in Clovis.
Four mule deer and one whitetail deer were shot, cut at the neck and the torsos dumped Dec. 31 about 10 miles north of Clovis.
Three males are considered suspects, but no charges have been filed due to lack of evidence, he said.
The night prior to the carcases being found, Clovis Police Detective Robert Telles questioned three males in a pickup truck on Prince Street when he spotted blood on the tailgate, according to police documents.
The driver said he had been deer hunting three weeks prior to the encounter, according to the report. Telles said that was unlikely because the blood was fresh. The suspect then said he had gone coyote hunting.
Robertson said that information combined with leads from residents prompted questioning.
One suspect said he tossed the deer heads in a pond in Pleasant Hill, about 30 minutes east of where the torsos were dumped. Roswell-based Game and Fish diver Shawn Denny said he investigated the water Saturday but found nothing.
“It was as black as you can imagine. If you close your eyes that is what it was like,” Denny said.
Authorities then dragged the 60-by-20 yard lake and found no evidence. The pond is about 10-feet deep, authorities estimate.
Robertson said officials then found no deer heads after pumping out the pond’s water Monday.
“We are going to go back to the suspect and find out what he actually did with them,” Robertson said. “How much of this story can we believe?”
Robertson said the whitetail deer may be the key to the investigation. He plans to interview a rancher north of Broadview near Caprock who said the deer may have been shot on his property.
The rancher claims a whitetail deer roamed the property prior to the killings, and Robertson said whitetail deer are rare in the area.
Robertson did not specify what charges suspects could face, but that they may be filed this week. Deer hunting season was Nov. 18-21, and killing deer out of season is a misdemeanor, which could result in jail time.
An Aztec man confessed in December to illegally killing a mule deer buck, removing its antlers and leaving the carcass. He was sentenced to 323 hours of community service and ordered to pay the state $250 for the deer, according to a Game and Fish report.
Robertson said the suspects may have intended to mount the deer heads, but decided to hide them following recent publicity of the incident.
“When they realized people were looking for them they said ‘lets get rid of them,’” he said. “One thing I noticed about Clovis is that if law enforcement or if there are missing kids or if people are looking for information and need help this community does it.”