Carbondale man to pay nearly $3,000; stiffer charges threatened
A Carbondale man pleaded guilty Tuesday to four misdemeanors related to his role in the illegal killing of a bear at the Pitkin County landfill this fall.
Jesse Schoeller, 26, was ordered to pay nearly $3,000 in fines and court costs by Judge Erin Fernandez-Ely of Pitkin County Court.
Schoeller was an employee of the landfill when he and a friend, Kaleb Nye, 26, of El Jebel, went to the site on Sept. 1, a day before the black bear archery season began.
The next day, the landfill’s operations manager alerted Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) that a large dead bear had been found on the facility grounds, according to a report by CPW officer Matt Yamashita.
On Sept. 4, “I received a voicemail message from Jesse Schoeller informing me that he was a landfill employee and that he and a friend had ‘made the biggest mistake of their lives’ over the weekend,” Yamashita wrote.
Around 5 p.m. on Sept. 1, Schoeller, who lost his job after the incident, told authorities that he and Nye hiked up a ravine.
“They spotted a bear on top of the compost pile, [and] Nye snuck around the pile and shot the bear” using Schoeller’s bow and arrows, the report says. “[Schoeller] saw Nye shoot again. Nye told him the first shot hit the bear far back and the second shot broke off in its shoulder.”
They watched the bear go up the ridgeline, Yamashita wrote, citing Schoeller’s statements.
“At that point it was getting dark, and [Schoeller] didn’t want to go into the bushes after a bear at night,” Yamashita wrote. “They came back the next morning and saw headlights on the property, and they finally realized” the magnitude of their mistake.
“They continued past the property and turned around and saw [CPW] going onto the property and knew they had messed up,” the report says.
Schoeller allegedly told the wildlife officers that he and Nye intended to shoot the bear and donate the meat like he has done with animals in the past.
Chris Hoofnagle, the county’s former solid waste operations manager in charge of the landfill, was no longer with the county as of Oct. 24, though it’s unclear if his dismissal was related to the bear’s killing.
Both Nye and Schoeller were cited for unlawfully taking wildlife; unlawful hunting outside an established season; unlawfully failing to reasonably attempt to care for and provide for the human consumption of edible portions of the animal; and unlawfully failing to immediately go to the location of wildlife which was shot.
Nye apparently paid his fine and was not required to appear in court.
Schoeller said earlier this month that he believed he was being unfairly charged. Aspen Deputy District Attorney Richard Nedlin said after Schoeller’s court hearing that the defendant told him the same thing, citing the fact that it was Nye who killed the animal.
Nedlin said he explained that state law includes complicity provisions that make Schoeller as culpable as Nye.
The prosecutor said he also raised the possibility that Schoeller could be charged with taking the bear during the non-hunting period of March 1 to Sept. 1. Yamashita issued a warning for that count, which is a more serious charge and one that could rise to the level of a felony, Nedlin said.
Schoeller, who didn’t address Fernandez-Ely before she handed down the order to pay the fines and court costs, instead pleaded guilty to the four misdemeanors.
His total cost is $2,983.50, according to court records.