Huntingdon, PA - Witnesses and supporters filled the prosecution side of the Fulton
County Courthouse as testimony began on the appeal hearing of Michael Allen
Lake, 38, of Grist Mill Road, Burnt Cabins, for conviction of an illegal killing
spree of wildlife that spanned more than two decades. By the end of the hearing,
Lake was found guilty of 33 of counts related to illegally killing white-tailed
deer and 51 counts of illegally killing wild turkey, and was ordered to pay
fines totaling $26,700, revocation of his hunting and trapping privileges and a
potential motion to request forfeiture of the eight firearms used in the case.
Sixteen boxes of evidence were brought into the courtroom as Pennsylvania Game
Commission investigating Wildlife Conservation Officers (WCOs) Travis Pugh and
Bert Einodshofer prepared for testimony. Central to the case were 53 turkey
beards seized from Lake's home, along with 42 sets of whitetail deer antlers and
the defendant's personal diary detailing illegal kills of wildlife starting in
Game Commission officers searched the home of Lake subsequent to an
investigation stemming from the nighttime shooting of a trophy 10-point deer
during November of 2002. During that incident, Deputy WCO Lanny Cornelius
located the freshly killed deer left lying in a field. Lake was subsequently
charged and found guilty in neighboring Huntingdon County and penalized $600,
loss of hunting privileges for three years and assessed $1,715 for restitution
of laboratory fees for his part in the violation.
Game Commission Wildlife Conservation Officer Bert Einodshofer prosecuted the
case for the Commonwealth, and Huntingdon County District Attorney Robert B.
Stewart III was consulted on this case.
However, during the Huntingdon County investigation, officers uncovered
additional evidence of Lake's activities in illegal killing of turkey and deer
spanning the time period between 1979 and 2001.
Testimony from the Game Commission continued throughout the day as Fulton County
District Attorney Dwight Harvey pieced together a detailed testimony from both
Game Commission officers and Fish and Boat Commission Waterways Conservation
Officer Corey Britcher. Introduced into evidence were: forensic results from the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service laboratory; handwriting analysis; documentation
from another state where Lake hunted during an inactive time of his diary;
ballistic results; and wall charts exhibiting diary entries and measurements of
the antlers and turkey beards seized during two searches of Lake's home.
Fulton County WCO Travis Pugh testified that 54 turkey kills were logged into
the defendant's diary and 53 turkey beards were confiscated during the search.
All 53 beards matched in length to diary entries, as did each set of trophy
antlers seized by the Game Commission. Additionally, the numerous firearms
obtained during the search matched notations in Lake's diary as guns used in
illegal killing of game.
"Each charge of a illegal bird or deer corresponded with a diary date outside
the parameter of established seasons," WCO Pugh said. "From a search of Game
Commission records, we know that Lake never reported the legal harvesting of a
deer or turkey as required by law. However, if a male deer was logged in but no
corresponding racks located in the search, if an antlerless deer was logged in
to his diary, or the date of the killing was within a deer or turkey hunting
season of any type, Lake was not charged for that particular animal."
Despite defense objections that the Commonwealth had not proven a case, Fulton
County Judge John Walker disagreed. Judge Walker stated that the incident
involving the trophy 10-point killed in November 2002 revealed "an inclination
to shoot out of season."
"If ego hadn't gotten to you, the Pennsylvania Game Commission would not have
much," Judge Walker said. "Those racks (antlers) sitting on that table are
dandy. If shot legal, a hunter would put them on a wall, not in a box in the
basement or garage where the mice can get to them. The turkeys were killed in
March and April when they are easy to kill. I've hunted since I was 14. I don't
think a deer lure maker would have that many nice racks and if he did he
wouldn't be hiding them in a basement."
Game Commission Bureau of Law Enforcement Director Michael Dubaich noted that
this case is a prime example of the exemplary investigative skills of the
agency's officers, and the assistance of the public.
"Whether it is tracking down evidence, manning a deer decoy or serving a search
warrant, our officers are well trained in conducting an investigation and
following through," Dubaich said. "However, our law enforcement abilities are
multiplied when concerned citizens step forward to offer information and help
the agency focus its investigative efforts. It also is comforting to know that
there are district justices, county judges and district attorneys and assistant
district attorneys who consider game law violations as serious as the many other
cases that they are called upon to try. We, and the hunters and trappers of
Pennsylvania, appreciate their resolve."