Bee Spring Burglary Leads To Arrest: Wildlife Poaching, Taxidermy And Deer Antler Theft Worth Over $25K
by Darren Doyle
A Hart County man has been arrested for what seems to be strange ways of acquiring wildlife, ways which are also illegal.
The Edmonson County Sheriff's office received a complaint on March 8th of a burglary at Salings Taxidermy in Bee Spring, where a mount of a smallmouth bass belonging to Salings had been stolen.
According to the sheriff's office, Paul Bruton, 40, of Munfordville, had scheduled an appointment with Salings for March 7th about getting one of his mounts reworked, but didn't show. Salings told the sheriff's office that he waited for Bruton, but had to leave to keep an appointment of his own.
Hours later, Salings said he received a voicemail from Bruton that said he was at Salings' residence waiting for him, but Salings said he was unable to reach him. Salings said on the next day, he noticed that a smallmouth Bass mount was missing from his garage.
The sheriff's office said that after further investigation, they learned that before Bruton contacted Salings, he apparently visited another taxidermy shop in Leitchfield, asking questions about getting the same fish mount repainted. The following day it was discovered that the business had been burglarized and a large set of trophy deer antlers had been stolen.
Stolen fish mounts are one thing, but according to Kentucky State Police, the stolen antlers are in a world of their own.
Police said the antlers came from a farm-raised deer that was shot by a unnamed man who paid $25,000 to go on a guided, out-of-state hunt.
The Kentucky State Police received a call from a man who reported that he bought the antlers from Bruton for an undisclosed amount. According to KSP, the man became suspicious after the purchase. He said he thought they could have been stolen and called police.
Leitchfield Police said more charges could be pending with the antlers.
The sheriff's office also learned that there had been a burglary in the Wax community around the same time, where a walleye mount had been stolen. Suspecting Bruton, the sheriff's office found both the walleye and smallmouth mounts at Bruton's residence in Munfordville. The Kentucky State Police and KY Dept of Fish and Wildlife recovered the deer antlers at a separate undisclosed location.
Detectives also said that Bruton will be facing additional burglary and theft related charges in Grayson and Hart counties.
Current charges for Bruton include:
Bruton is also facing poaching related charges from another incident around the same time including:
The case is a multi-agency case, involving the Edmonson County Sheriff's Office, Kentucky State Police, KY Fish & Wildlife, Grayson County Sheriff's Office, and Leitchfield Police Department.
"Thefts that involve multiple counties can often be very hard to work, said ECSO Detective Wally Ritter. "Had it not been for the great multi-agency cooperation, these victims very well may not have seen their property again."
Bruton is scheduled to appear in Edmonson District Court on Tuesday, March 22nd on theft and burglary charges.