2014-04-10 / Front Page

Last cougar suspect enters plea

Downstate man pleads no contest in killing

MANISTIQUE – The third and final defendant has been sentenced in the killing of a cougar in Schoolcraft County. The endangered animal was killed on Dec. 9 at a cabin owned by three downstate men.

Todd Anthony Richard, 43, of Burt, had originally pled not guilty to conspiracy to take/possess an endangered species. On Monday, following a hearing in 93rd District Court, Richard changed his plea to no contest to a lesser charge of taking/possession of an endangered species.

He was sentenced by Judge Mark E. Luoma to 30 days in jail, which will be held in abeyance pending successful completion of 24 hours of community service. The community service was ordered to be served in Richard’s home community within 30 days.

Richard was also ordered to pay $625 in fines and costs.

A separate hearing was held in 93rd District Court on March 5. During this hearing, Troy Robert Richard, 42, of Bay City, pled guilty to the taking/possession of an endangered species and conspiracy to take an endangered species. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail, a three-year revocation of all hunting privileges, $5,775 in fines, court costs and restitution including expenses to preserve the animal for educational purposes. Richard also forfeited the weapon involved in the taking of the animal and was ordered to serve 120 hours of community service.

Theodore Robert Richard, 68, of Munger, pled guilty to aiding and abetting the illegal taking/possession of an endangered species and paid $1,725 in fines and costs, had all hunting privileges revoked for a period of two years and received 96 hours of community service.

The cougar was killed at Richards’ hunting camp in Germfask Township near Seney in Schoolcraft County. Investigation revealed the animal was shot from the subjects’ camp when it walked into a deer food plot and drove the deer out while the subjects were muzzleloader hunting for deer. The animal was wounded by Troy Richard with a centerfire 22-250 caliber rifle and it then fled the food plot. It was tracked and located approximately one-quarter mile away the following day and killed.

The investigation also revealed Troy and Theodore Richard then brought the animal back to their camp where they field dressed it and hid it. They proceeded to cook and eat part of the heart. They left for their homes in Bay County shortly after, with the animal intact but field dressed in the back of Troy Richard’s pickup truck. Troy Richard reported that he struck a deer with his truck after leaving the camp. He picked up the deer, put it in a trailer with other deer they had killed and transported it to the Michigan State Police post in St. Ignace where he obtained a permit for the road kill deer all while having the cougar in the truck’s bed under a tonneau cover so that it could be hidden from view. DNR investigating officers noted that Richard had ample opportunity to report the cougar killing at this point, but failed to do so.

Troy Richard returned to his residence with the cougar where the animal was skinned and prepared for mounting. The skull was also boiled and preserved; the remains of the carcass were disposed of.

It was discovered when the Richards learned that Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officers knew about the poaching, they attempted to hide the evidence at another location. During the investigation, the Richards gave many false statements and had officers searching several areas in the UP where they claimed to have disposed of the entire cougar and repeatedly denied that they took the animal home with them. The cougar hide, which had been prepared for mounting, and the skull were eventually recovered, and the entrails of the adult male cougar were also found at the Richards’ camp. The suspects ultimately admitted the crime and related it as one of opportunity – an once-in-a-lifetime chance to kill a cougar in Michigan and have it mounted. Cougars are on the Michigan endangered species list and are a protected animal that may not be hunted.

Anyone with information on any other poaching case may call the DNR’s Report All Poaching (RAP) Line 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 800-292-7800.

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