Thanks to a tip from a horn-buying business in Grand Junction, and subsequent followup by the Mesa County Sheriff's Office, investigators from the Delta County Sheriff's Office were quickly able to solve a theft from a taxidermy business in Paonia.
On March 23, at about 9 a.m., the sheriff's office was notified of a burglary at 530 Grand Avenue in Paonia. The reporting party, Robert Stephenson, advised his taxidermy business had been broken into during the night, and an unknown person(s) had stolen approximately $595,840.00 worth of large trophy elk and deer antlers and exotic horns.
"Apparently they broke into the shop and were able to load up all the antlers and other associated equipment," said Undersheriff Mark Taylor. "They left from there and contacted a horn-buying business in Grand Junction."
The business purchased some of the antlers, issuing a check for around $1,200, but the number and size of the trophy horns offered by two young men raised suspicions. The Mesa County Sheriff's Office was contacted. A sheriff's deputy reached out to Sgt. Detective Luke Fedler, who had already visited the crime scene in Paonia.
An employee of the business was able to get a good description, along with other valuable identifying information on the individuals attempting to sell the horns. That information was given to Delta County investigators Fedler, Quinn Archibeque, Chris Stewart and Jason Warth. Working until the early morning hours of March 24, they were able to take that information and make contact with two individuals identified as Zachery Boutwell, 20, of Olathe and Joseph Edward Brown, 21, of Montrose.
Joseph Brown was arrested and charged with second degree burglary, a class 4 felony; theft ($100,000 to less than $1,000,000), a class 3 felony; and criminal mischief ($300 to less than $750, a class 2 misdemeanor. He is being held in Delta County Jail.
Criminal charges will be filed against Zachery Boutwell at a later date. He has not been arrested.
Ultimately, Undersheriff Taylor said, investigators were able to recover about 75 percent of the stolen items. They continue to attempt to locate the remaining antlers and equipment.
Taylor said elk horns can fetch $10 a pound. The stolen horns were from elk raised on a ranch, so were larger than what might be found in the wild.