Suspects in massive poaching investigation plead not guilty

FILE - This July 15, 2012 file photo shows an adult black bear standing on its hind legs after becoming aware of a nearby human presence near Owyhigh Lake in Mount Rainier National Park. Authorities said Friday, Sept. 8, 2017 that an extensive poaching ring is responsible for slaughtering more than 100 black bears, cougars, bobcats, deer and elk in southwestern Washington state and northwestern Oregon, with many of the animals hunted with dogs and then left to rot. (Aaron Lavinsky/The Seattle Times via AP, File)

CENTRALIA, Wash. (AP) – Two of the three newest suspects in a massive poaching investigation out of southwest Washington have pleaded not guilty.

The Chronicle reports Aaron Hendricks, his father-in-law David McLeskey of Woodland and Aaron Hanson are facing charges of first-degree animal cruelty, unlawful hunting of black bear, cougar, bobcat or lynx with dogs and second-degree unlawful hunting of animals.

Hendricks and McLeskey have pleaded not guilty on Tuesday.

Hanson is scheduled to appear in court Wednesday.

According to court documents, officials uncovered a network of poachers after investigating William Haynes and Erik Martin who are suspected of engaging in illegal hunting activities.

Law enforcement identified Hanson, Hendricks and McLeskey as suspects and co-conspirators in the illegal activities from cellphone evidence.