After a monthlong investigation, the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources has arrested a man suspected of illegally killing the beloved Hollywood Cemetery whitetail buck known as "Prince." Jason Walters, a 36-year-old resident of Richmond, Virginia, was taken into custody and charged with 19 wildlife violations related to the illegal killing of three deer this past hunting season.
Walters became a suspect after sharing photos of himself posing with a 39-point non-typical buck on the Star City Whitetails Facebook Group. In the post, Walters said he used a muzzleloader to take the deer in Prince Edward County. However, many people in the group recognized it as the majestic buck from Richmond's Hollywood Cemetery. Members of the group immediately told the DWR. Numerous conservation police officers were dedicated to the investigation of the deer's killing.
At the time, Maj. Ryan Shuler, deputy chief of DWR Law Enforcement, said in a press release, "The illegal killing of the Hollywood Cemetery buck is a serious violation of Virginia's wildlife laws and will be a priority for the Conservation Police Officers assigned to the investigation until all leads have been exhausted, all evidence has been collected, and those involved have been charged."
However, they did not initially name Walters as a suspect, though they did allude to the Facebook post. Their investigation eventually led to Walters' arrest on Sunday, January 28.
While the DWR didn't list all 19 charges, we do know he was charged with illegal possession of wildlife, trespassing, failing to check and tag a deer, earn a buck violation, and littering. Also, charges were pending against Alan Proffitt, 36, of Richmond, who is believed to be Walters' accomplice, according to the department.
"Our officers immediately began their investigation upon learning of the potential violation of Virginia's wildlife laws," Shuler said in a press release, "The CPOs involved in the investigation devoted countless hours to gathering evidence in this case. We appreciate the support of the Richmond and Chesterfield County Police Departments, as well as Hollywood Cemetery and the James River Park System in bringing the suspect to justice. The illegal killing of this deer was a blow to the community and damaged the reputation of law-abiding hunters across the Commonwealth."
Authorities were able to recover two sets of antlers, one of which was confirmed to be from the Hollywood Cemetery buck.
While members of the Star City Whitetail group are thrilled Walters was caught and charged, many are concerned that his final punishment won't fit the crime.
One group member wrote, "The punishment of a poacher is never severe enough. I mean obviously there will be a fine and lose of hunting license rights for a couple years, but obviously a person like this does follow the legality of a license and will laugh at the punishment. I myself believe this should be a felony and take total firearm rights!!!"
Time and time again, we have seen poachers get what amounts to a slap on the wrist when all is said and done. We certainly hope that doesn't happen this time.
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