Three adults charged in “thrill killings” of over two dozen deer across Southern Franklin Co.

26 May 2023- After 26 deer are found dead from small caliber bullet wounds over the course of multiple months, three adults and multiple youths are charged with unlawful killings of deer in Warren, Antrim, Washington, and more townships. Caillou Patterson is charged with eight total counts, including corruption of minors and killing of big game out of season. Hunter Noble Atherton is charged with 38 total charges, including unlawful killing of big game out of season, firearms charges, and corruption of minors. Abigale Leigh Hoover is facing 61 total charges, including similar charges to Patterson and Atherton. All have been issued summons to appear before MDJ Duane Cunningham.

Around 3pm on September 7th, 2022, State Game Wardens were notified of multiple dead deer that had been located by different members of the public. The first two were located across from the intersection of Castlegreen and Williamson Road in Antrim Township. Upon arrival, the Warden allegedly found a male deer with the head cut off and the second a dead fawn. Both had been found with a single small caliber bullet wound consistent with .22 caliber. blow fly egg masses around the wounds helped determine their times of death of being less than 24 hours.

The second dead deer was found at the intersection of McDowell and Scott Roads at the boundary of Antrim and Washington Townships. After examination, the deer was found with the same M.O.: a small caliber .22 bullet to the shoulder and killed within the last 24 hours.

On September 13th, the Warden was called to an area near Punch Bowl Road, Montgomery Township, for a fawn that had been shot the night prior. The caller told the Game Commission that his neighbors had allegedly witnessed a golf Honda CRV spotlighting the field across from their house the previous night between 10-11pm. After the spotlight shined on a group of deer in the field, the homeowners allegedly heard two rifle shots come from the CRV and the car immediately fled past them heading south on Punch Bowl Road. The car was also identified to have damaged taillight lenses. When Wardens arrived, they allegedly found a fawn that was alive but would not survive. It was then euthanized by officials.

Over the next few months, more than 10 deer were reported and documented as being shot across southern Franklin County with similar “thrill killing” by juveniles or late teenagers engaged in unlawful hunting. Suspects were allegedly driving the previously mentioned gold Honda CRV and using small caliber rifles of either .22 or .17.

On January 3rd, Wardens were allegedly in the area of Buchanan Trail East near Sheetz in Antrim Township when they found a gold Honda CRV pull up to the pumps. Wardens then followed the car for a time before parking to watch from afar. Soon after, the Warden allegedly heard a gunshot coming from the direction of Marsh Road, then one a little after near Salem Church Road. After hearing a third shot closer to the Warden, he was able to locate the CRV and executed a traffic stop. A 17 year old was in the driver’s seat, with multiple other juveniles in the car. The passenger allegedly had a loaded Ruger American .22 Magnum rifle across his lap. The juveniles confirmed that they had been involved in numerous poaching incidents. Eventually, the juvenile was interviewed in the presence of their father and during said interview the names of Patterson, Hoover, and Atherton were brought up as being involved.

A follow up interview confirmed multiple of the nights involved in the investigation. More details were also found by investigators, including the fact Atherton would allegedly bring his own rifle, an AR style semi-automatic .22 caliber with a rifle scope. During one night, Atherton was allegedly aggravated he couldn’t hit the deer with multiple shots so he turned on a laser sight and shot the deer in the head.

In total, the group was identified by investigators as being involved with 26 total deer killings, as well as admitting to 7 additional attempts at shooting at deer. Court documents show exactly when, where, and who killed the deer for all 26 deer.

Patterson, Atherton, and Hoover have all been issued summons in relation to their respective charges. Their preliminary hearings are set for July 18th.

Sources: Incident Number: 2023-00000340, Docket Number: MJ-39305-CR-0000107-2023, Docket Number: MJ-39305-CR-0000106-2023, Docket Number: MJ-39305-CR-0000105-2023