Bryan Tretiak of Morton became the first person to be convicted in a massive poaching case coming out of southwest Washington and northwest Oregon when he pleaded guilty to second-degree illegal hunting of big game in Skamania County Court on Nov. 2
Tretiak, 31, was accused of participating in the first illegal kill on an extensive timeline compiled by law enforcement in Washington and Oregon. That illegal take of a bear was alleged to have occured on August 29, 2015, in an area of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest south of Randle.
According to The Daily News of Longview the guilty plea carried a maximum penalty of 364 days in jail or a fine of up to $5,000. However, because Tretiak had never previously been convicted of poaching, Skamania County Superior Court Judge Randall Krog chose to give Tretiak 14 days community service and a $500 fine. The court also stipulated that Tretiak is not permitted to hunt or possess hunting dogs for the next two years.
Three other suspects from what the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has described as an interconnected ring of poachers are due in court for suppression hearings on Dec. 14. Those suspected poachers, Eddy Dills, Joseph Dills and Erik Christian Martin, all of Longview, pleaded not guilty to a total of 118 charges in October and are set to begin their trials on Jan. 8, 2018.
The suppression hearings are expected to cover whether or not a cache of evidence obtained by law enforcement through the cell phones of the suspects will be admissible in court. WDFW records indicate that after being contacted by Oregon law enforcement on December 3, 2016, William Haynes and Erik Martin willingly gave investigators access to their cell phones. Those cellular devices proved to be a gruesome pandora’s box of videos, photographs and text conversations detailing a multiple year killing spree that hopped county lines, state lines, and targeted a myriad of species with reckless abandon. In total the group is suspected of poaching more than 100 large game animals in addition to hundreds of smaller animals during their unchecked poaching activities. Nearly 30 severed deer heads were found during the first night of the investigation alone and hunting dogs were allegedly employed illegally during many of the big game hunts for animals such as bears, cougars and bobcats.
“Our search warrants were reviewed and we feel confident,” WDFW Sergeant Brad Rhoden told The Daily News. He added that suppression hearings are considered routine in criminal cases.
So far the long investigation has netted a total of 187 charges against eight suspects and WDFW law enforcement has promised additional charges against affiliated poachers are likely to be announced at any time. Additionally, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is still conducting its own investigation into the group’s poaching activities in the Mount Hood National Forest and other areas.
In an interview with WDFW investigators on Aug. 11, 2017, Tretiak admitted that he was present at the Aug. 29, 2015 bear hunt near Orr Creek Sno Park that kicks off the WDFW timeline of suspected poaching activity by the group. He also told investigators that he had accompanied the group on additional hunts where he had witnessed them kill a black bear and then stuff it into a culvert pipe along Forest Road 23 in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, as well as illegal hunts for bobcats in Oregon and one trip in Washington where one of the Dills children shot and killed a bear over the family hounds near Killen Creek. He said that bear was left behind to waste.
When investigators looked inside Tretiak’s freezer last summer they found, among other animals, at least three bobcats, one bear hide, one coyote pelt and one deer skull. Tretiak admitted that the bear pelt was from the bear he had shot over the Dills’ hunting dogs in 2015. Additionally, the bobcats were not properly sealed and were confiscated as evidence by the WDFW.
Tretiak told investigators during that interview that he had befriended the Dills a few years prior and then began joining them at their various hunting camps within the GPNF. Those hunting camps included Takhlakh Lake Campground, where the Dills family was employed as campground hosts, and other National Forest locations. According to the WDFW report, Tretiak said that while at their camp the Dills began to tell him “all kinds of stories about illegal hunting and how they got away with it the first time they got caught by WDFW during operation ‘Kill em all boys.’”
Tretiak told investigators that he only uses his hunting dogs to hunt raccoons at night and he soon became uncomfortable with the illegal actions of the Dills’ and their associates. According to a WDFW report Tretiak told officers that he felt pressured into poaching the bear, “because he would go to the Dills’ camp often and he didn’t want to feel like an outcast or someone they can’t trust.”
Tretiak did not return a phone call from The Chronicle seeking comment.
This is not the first time that the Dills family has been in hot water for illegal hunting. In 2008, Joseph Dills pleaded guilty to second-degree unlawful hunting of big game and second-degree criminal trespassing for his connections to the self-monickered “Kill ‘Em All Boyz” poaching crew out of Cowlitz County.
William J. Haynes, 23, of Longview, is another suspect who popped up frequently during the investigation. One series of photos shows Haynes smiling at the camera while his face is covered in blood from an apparent point-blank kill shot and his text messages included numerous threads where he brags to his mother about his most recent kills. Haynes is currently facing 61 charges in Skamania County with a suppression hearing set for March 1 and a trial date set for March 12.
Kyle S. Manley, of Cowlitz County, is the most recent suspect to be charged. He is facing one count of second-degree illegal hunting of big game and one count of illegal hunting of bears, bobcats, cougars or lynx with the aid of dogs. His status conference hearing is scheduled for Dec. 4 in Skamania County.
Aubri McKenna, 35, of Longview, is scheduled for a status hearing on Dec. 18 in Skamania County District Court. She is facing two counts of second-degree unlawful hunting of big game and one count of illegal hunting with the aid of dogs and has not entered a plea yet.
A 17-year old female relative of the Dills is also facing charges but has not yet entered a plea. She has been charged with one count of unlawful hunting of big game and one count of illegal hunting with the aid of dogs. Her status hearing is set for Dec. 4 in Skamania County District Court.