VALUABLE DEER Breeder charged in buck's theft
DNA testing has helped to identify the giant deer, an attorney said.
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The tale of Goliath is as tangled as the buck's massive rack of antlers.
And now a deer breeder faces possible jail time in the theft of the giant buck -- worth perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars -- from another breeder nearly five years ago.
Goliath vanished from Rodney Miller's Wild Bunch Ranch, about 60 miles north of Pittsburgh, in October 1999. He was about 2 years old, weighed 260 pounds and had 28 points, or antler tips.
In July 2003, members of the Pennsylvania Deer Farmers Association located the creature believed to be Goliath on Jeffrey Spence's White Oak Whitetail Deer Farm in Reynoldsville, about 50 miles from Miller's farm.
On Friday, state police charged Spence with theft, receiving stolen property and conspiracy to commit theft -- all third-degree felonies -- in Goliath's disappearance.
Since its recovery, the deer has been the subject of DNA testing and an ongoing civil court fight.
At first, Spence suggested the deer, whom he called Hercules, wasn't Goliath. He was trying to sell it for $150,000 at the time it was found.
Miller, who said in an interview last August that he could tell by looking at the deer's face that it was Goliath, obtained a temporary injunction granting him possession until the identity could be proved.
DNA testing on a the recovered buck matched a sample taken from Goliath before he disappeared, said Ronald Elliott, Miller's attorney.
Now back in Miller's possession, the deer has grown to well over 300 pounds and has so many points, "I can't count them," said Diane Miller, who declined to comment on Spence's arrest.
Troy Harper, Spence's attorney in the civil case, said last year that if the deer really is Goliath, Spence acquired it "in the proper manner." He wouldn't say how.
Spence declined to comment Monday. His criminal attorney, Ralph Montana, wondered why charges were so long in coming, since the theft had been under investigation for a long time.
"The time between the investigation and the arrest seems to be inordinately long," Montana said, adding that makes defending a case more difficult. He declined to comment otherwise.
The Millers breed deer to sell to other deer farms and ultimately to game farms, where hunters pay for the opportunity to bag trophy bucks.
And what a trophy the deer in question would be, at least to breeders.
Miller has declined to put a value on Goliath, but he had offered a $100,000 reward. Some massive bucks have sold for more than $500,000.