Polk man faces charges in beheading of trophy buck

Published: Wednesday, October 1, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, October 2, 2008 at 12:48 a.m.

A Polk County man turned himself in Monday on charges that he beheaded a prized deer on a game farm in Union County, reportedly taking the head with its 12-point antlers to a taxidermist while leaving most of the carcass behind.

Dustin Cole Jernigan, 21, was charged with armed trespass, grand theft and damage to farm property.

The deer was found slaughtered at Shadd's Game Farm outside Lake Butler on Sept. 6, and a joint investigation by the Union County Sheriff's Office and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission was launched.

Officials said the killing of the captive, domestic trophy deer which was being raised as a breeding animal would be prosecuted under the same felony laws as stealing or killing livestock, such as cattle. Investigators said prison time was likely for those involved with the deer's death.

John Shadd, the game farm owner, offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the crime.

Within two weeks, investigators reported they had recovered the deer head from a taxidermy shop in the Eagle Lake area of Polk County.

Union County Sheriff Jerry Whitehead said Jernigan was with his attorney when he turned himself in Monday and was released on a $40,000 bond. The sheriff credited, "The quick cooperation of the public," as well as the assistance of the wildlife commission, for the case being solved.

Sheriff's Office Maj. Garry Seay said the investigation is continuing and additional arrests are likely in the case.

Karen Voyles can be reached at kvoyles@gmail.com or 359-5656

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