This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
A Utah man has been sentenced to probation for the 2011 illegal killing of a trophy mule deer that was seen so often at Camp Williams that soldiers had given it a nickname.
The deer called "The Rabbi" for its very large and uniquely shaped antlers was found dead on Oct. 24, 2011, in the Beef Hollow area of Camp Williams, which is closed to hunting.
Stephen Dick Rueckert, now 50, was charged in 2012 with one count of third-degree felony wanton destruction of protected wildlife.
On Sept. 19, following a two-day jury trial in 3rd District Court, Rueckert was convicted of the charge.
However, trial judge Richard McKelvie earlier this year granted Rueckert a new trial, based on a faulty jury instruction.
A new trial date was set, but Rueckert earlier this month pleaded guilty to a lesser class A misdemeanor count of attempted wanton destruction of protected wildlife.
McKelvie suspended a one-year jail term and placed Rueckert on probation for 18 months, which includes a $100 fine and $8,000 in restitution to the state Division of Wildlife Resources.
According to charging documents, a National Guard sergeant found the deer's carcass, which was missing its head, backstraps and hindquarters, while investigating reports of shots fired in the area.
The sergeant recognized the deer as being The Rabbi whom he had seen at least 30 times between the beginning of September and about Oct. 19 in 2011, charges state.
The sergeant called the state Division of Wildlife Resources to help investigate.
On Nov. 17, 2011, the DWR officer got a tip that the deer's distinctive antlers had been seen at a taxidermy shop in Sandy. When shown a picture of the deer, the shop's owner confirmed he had skinned the cape from the head of that deer. He told investigators that Rueckert, then of Altamont in Duchesne County, had brought it to him, charges state.
Rueckert admitted that he killed the mule deer, saying "That's my deer. I killed that deer," charges state.
The Rabbi had antlers measuring 37 inches wide, making it a trophy deer worth $8,000, according to the charges.
McKelvie, in his order granting Rueckert a new trial, noted that it is unlawful to hunt on Camp Williams property without permission, which Rueckert did not have.
Rueckert claimed to have shot the deer in the leg outside of Camp Williams, after which he tracked it for seven or eight hours before finding it and firing a fatal shot.
McKelvie wrote, however, that prosecutors presented testimony that there was no evidence of a non-fatal wound on the carcass, nor any blood trail indicating the animal had been shot anywhere other than at the site of the fatal shot.