By JOHN BURNETT
Tribune-Herald staff writer
Two Paauilo men accused of shooting and skinning a rancher’s calf near Honokaa have been charged with livestock theft.
Lonnie James Knutson, 22, and Jason James Williams, 25, made their initial court appearances on Tuesday afternoon in Hilo District Court. They were ordered by Judge Shirley Kawamura to return at 2 p.m. today for a preliminary hearing. Bail for both men was originally set at $2,000, but Kawamura allowed them to go free on supervised release.
Conditions of their release include no threats or harm to the rancher, Peter De Luz.
Deputy Prosecutor Greg Gimenez told the court that Williams is wanted on an extradition warrant in Florida. Asked afterward, he said he didn’t know what Williams is wanted for.
Both men are “woofers,” unpaid interns working at Pu‘u‘ala Farm to gain practical knowledge about and experience in organic farming. The farm’s manager, Zach Gibson, had said the men had shot the animal because it was injured in a gulch. Court documents filed by police indicate that the gulch is located on land leased by De Luz from Gibson’s father, who owns Pu‘u‘ala.
“An officer scaled down approximately 50 yards and an investigator discovered the remains of the carcass,” Lt. Greg Esteban of the Hilo Criminal Investigation Section said Tuesday. Documents indicate that De Luz “located Knutson by the calf legs which were partially deboned.” De Luz told police that Knutson admitted they shot the animal without his permission, documents state.
According to police, the case is about hunting without permission on private property.
“The guys discharged a weapon on private property, killed a calf and cut it up and took some of the meat,” Esteban said.
Esteban said that officers discovered four potted 3-foot-tall marijuana plants in the area, but police haven’t been able to link the marijuana to either man.
Documents state that the weapon is a Winchester 30-30 rifle and that there was one spent shell casing in the chamber. Gibson told the Tribune-Herald on Monday that he owns the firearm. Police had originally booked the men on suspicion of carrying an unloaded firearm, but Esteban said that charge wasn’t filed because it occurred on the law only applies to public property and the incident occurred on privately owned land.
Email John Burnett at email@example.com.