Three Utah County men are facing criminal charges for allegedly trapping a buck deer in a backyard and killing it.
Jace T. Zeeman, 29, of American Fork; Joshua Douglas Mooney, 28, of Pleasant Grove; and Tanner Cole Zeeman, 24, of American Fork, were each charged Monday in 4th District Court with wanton destruction of protected wildlife, a third-degree felony.
Mooney was also charged with possession of a weapon by a restricted person, a third-degree felony; obstructing justice, a third-degree felony; and drug possession and possession of drug paraphernalia, both class B misdemeanors.
On Jan. 13, investigators from the Division of Wildlife Resources received information that a buck deer valued at more than $8,000 was killed in Mooney’s backyard, according to charging documents.
“(Tanner) Zeeman sent photos to a few friends of the deer. One individual received an image of the deer deceased in the bathtub,” the charges state. “Officers later discovered through text messages that (Tanner) Zeeman helped trap and keep the deer in the backyard so that Mooney could kill the deer.”
Division of Wildlife Resources investigators arrived at the house to find “a fresh blood trail from the backyard to the neighbor’s yard. There were blood marks on the door as well,” the charges state.
Mooney refused to answer the door, according to charging documents, “and attempted to hide and clean up evidence in the home.”
After obtaining a search warrant, officials from the division entered the house and found a “deer head was located under blankets and clothing in a closet. Deer meat was packaged in moving boxes and put in a separate closet. The boxes were sprayed with cologne to hide the smell. The bathroom was cleaned with bleach but deer hair and ticks were found,” the charges state.
A bow authorities say was used to kill the deer was also recovered and the arrow allegedly used was found hanging on a the kitchen wall, according to charging documents.
Jace Zeeman allegedly helped carry the deer through the backdoor into the house, the charges state.
Zeeman also currently faces a charge of murder in a separate case. He is accused of assaulting his stepfather, Brandon Bourgeois, 47, on Aug. 27, 2017, causing fatal injuries. Zeeman was originally charged with manslaughter, but that was later increased to murder, a first-degree felony. Prosecutors contend that even though Zeeman may have been trying to protect his mother, he took the altercation too far.
Zeeman contends he acted in self-defense and did what was necessary based on Bourgeois’ history of domestic violence. The next hearing in that case was scheduled for May 16.