WARREN (WWJ) - A Downriver man and his step-brother have pleaded guilty to animal cruelty charges after hunting deer in Warren.
William Francis, a 27-year-old Riverview resident, and Myles Ehret, a 19-year-old Royal Oak resident, pleaded no contest to the misdemeanor charge Tuesday in 37th District Court. In exchange for their pleas, more serious felony charges were dismissed. A date for sentencing hasn’t been determined.
Francis and Ehret were arrested on Dec. 21 after they were seen dragging a deer out of woods in the area of Jenny and Knapp avenues and loading the animal into a U-Haul pickup truck.
A witness who allegedly saw the men gave police the license plate number of the U-Haul truck, as well as a description of a small blue car which they believed the suspects had originally arrived in.
Police looked up the license plate and discovered the U-Haul truck was rented from a business on Ryan Road. When police arrived at the business, they located the small blue car which matched the description given by the witness.
Police linked the blue car to Francis, and said they could see in plain view from the exterior of the vehicle a hunting compound bow, pop-up blind, small propane heater, a folding chair and loose corn, which is commonly used for deer bait. Police then impounded the car and waited for Francis to return with the U-haul truck.
According to a police report, Francis had a “shocked look” on his face when he returned with the U-Haul truck and didn’t see his blue car where he left it. After looking for his car, Francis left the parking lot in the U-Haul truck.
Police followed the truck and made a traffic stop in the parking lot of Michigan Collegiate High School, where officers say they observed hair and blood in the bed of the pickup truck.
Police say Francis, who was driving, exited the vehicle when asked and was still wearing hunting clothing with a scent disc on his jacket, as well as blood on his hands and loose corn in his pocket. The front-seat passenger, identified as Ehret, also “had dried blood all over his hands and on his shirt.”
Police say they observed empty packages for two different knives in the cab of the pick-up, along with an arrow which had a mechanical tip, on the passenger side of the floorboard.
According to a police report, officers told Francis his car was impounded and asked him “Where is the deer?” Francis then told police he wanted to talk to a lawyer. Ehret also immediately stated that he wanted to talk to an attorney.
At that time, police said Francis and Ehret were placed under arrest for possession of a dangerous weapon, the arrow, on school property. The arrowhead found in the U-Haul truck is the same as ones found in the bow case in Francis’ car, which also match an arrow recovered by officers at the hunting scene, police say.
After consulting with DNR Conservation Officers who were called to the scene, police decided to change the charges to animal killing/torturing based on the killing of a deer in a non-hunting area.
Police also responded to Ehret’s address and spoke to his father, who told them the deer was in Riverview at Francis’ residence. Police responded to the Riverview home, where they reportedly found a dead 5-point buck.
Under a city ordinance, hunting in Warren is a misdemeanor punishable by 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. Discharge of a bow and arrow with a penetrating tip or head also if prohibited by local ordinance.
Warren Mayor Jim Fouts said in a written statement that he was “appalled and outraged” that the men killed a deer within city limits.
“I consider deer in our city a domesticated animal because their tameness and the joy they bring to observers, especially children,” said Fouts. “Our city does not allow hunting animals of any kind, and I hope they receive the maximum penalty allowed by law. Probation is not satisfactory. They must feel the full weight of the law. To drive miles and miles from Riverview to Warren to kill a deer magnifies the crime.”