By Patrick Winderl/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
CHINOOK - A Chinook man has been charged in connection with the killing of four cattle on a Blaine County ranch earlier this year.
Wesley J. Anderson, 25, is charged in state District Court in Chinook with four counts of felony criminal mischief and one count of misdemeanor theft. The charges stem from a Feb. 12 incident in which four pregnant cows were shot on the Overcast ranch east of Chinook, and portions of meat were taken from one of the cattle.
Anderson is being held in the Hill County Detention Center on $20,000 bail. Each of the felony counts carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a $50,000 fine.
Ranchers Ken and Dawn Overcast discovered two of the slain animals Feb. 12. The cattle had been shot in the stomach and left to die, according to the charging document. Both of the cows had been cut open, and one had sections of meat removed, the document said.
Blaine County sheriff's deputies found 9 mm shell casings and boot prints near the scene of the shootings, according to the charging document.
Two weeks later, the Overcasts discovered the carcasses of two more cows. By running a metal detector over the bodies of the cattle, deputies determined that they also had been shot.
A 9 mm slug was recovered from one of the animals, according to the charging document. Deputies believed the cattle also had been shot on Feb. 12 and had wandered off to die before being discovered Feb. 26.
The Overcasts, along with several other area ranchers, the Montana Stockgrowers Association, and the state Department of Livestock offered a reward for information about the incident. The reward totaled about $3,500.
In April, two confidential informants implicated Anderson in the shootings, the charging document said. One of the informants told deputies that Anderson had recently given his aunt $300 to purchase a 9 mm rifle, the document said.
It also said one of the informants provided authorities with the names of two other men the informant said were involved in the shootings.
On April 27, deputies interviewed one of the other men, who acknowledged he had been drinking with Anderson on the night of the shootings, the charging document said. The man told deputies that he fell asleep, and then went to Anderson's apartment after he woke up later that night, the document said. The man told deputies he noticed two large pieces of meat in Anderson's apartment, according to the charging document.
The man also said Anderson had shown him a 9 mm rifle while they had been drinking, the document said. He told deputies Anderson had been wearing a gray Nike jacket and jeans on the night the cows were shot.
On May 2, deputies served a search warrant at Anderson's apartment. During the search, deputies seized a pair of Sketchers work boots, a gray Nike coat, a package of meat in the freezer, and a hunting knife, the charging document said.
The following day, deputies contacted a sporting goods store in Wolf Point. A store employee told deputies that Anderson's aunt had purchased a 9 mm carbine from the store on Feb. 1, according to the charging document.
In June, the Blaine County Sheriff's Office sent the items seized from Anderson's apartment to the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory at the University of California, Davis. Hair, hide and bone samples taken from two of the killed cows also were submitted for analysis, the document said.
Several months later, the sheriff's office was informed by the laboratory that DNA taken from blood on the seized work boots matched a hide sample taken from one of the cows and that blood from the hunting knife was determined to be a mixture from two or more cattle, according to the charging document.
Blaine County Sheriff Glenn Huestis said today that the informants declined the offered reward.
He said no other charges are pending in the case.
Ken Overcast said today he believes the reward will still be given. He added that he is pleased that the investigation has led to charges.
Overcast is an award-winning Western entertainer and author. He hosts his own radio program and has released numerous Western albums.