Hawkins teen faces 34 charges for alleged poaching, spotlighting deer

Jeff Bobo • Jan 31, 2018 at 8:29 AM

ROGERSVILLE — A Hawkins County teen who was arrested in Hancock County last month accused of spotlighting deer from a vehicle was formally charged Monday in Hawkins County with 34 counts related to more alleged illegal hunting and spotlighting.

Christian Thomas Churchwell, 18, 327 Collins St., Church Hill, was charged in Hawkins County on Monday with 11 counts of spotlighting deer, three counts of unlawful hunting of big game, two counts of hunting big game out of season, eight counts of hunting from a motor vehicle on a public road, six counts of illegal possession of big game and four counts of taking over the limit.

During his investigation, Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency Officer Christopher Seay reportedly utilized witness statements from accused poachers, as well as text messages, videos and photos from Churchwell's phone.

Seay also reportedly seized six white tail deer heads, two from Churchwell and four from one of Churchwell's alleged poaching partners.

On Dec. 17, Churchwell and three other boys were arrested by TWRA Officer Jerry Short for spotlighting deer in Hancock County.

A spotlight was seized at that time, along with a Remington 700 .308 caliber rifle.

Two days later, Short and Seay interviewed Churchwell, at which time Churchwell allegedly admitted to killing three bucks and two does while spotlighting in Hawkins County during the 2017-18 season.

Churchwell also reportedly consented to a forensic analysis on his cell phone.

Seay also interviewed the other boys who were arrested with Churchwell in Hancock County, and although the content of those interviews wasn't released, Seay did note that one of the boys turned over four of the six deer heads that were seized.

On Dec. 21, the TWRA forensic analysis was conducted on Churchwell's phone in Nashville, at which time "several pictures, videos and messages regarding illegal hunting activity were found on the phone," Seay stated in his report.

Churchwell appeared in Hancock County Sessions Court on Jan. 16 on the original charge, and he was interviewed again by Seay.

"At this time, Churchwell gave us another written statement detailing his illegal hunting activities during the 2017-18 season," Seay stated in his report. "The statement included information about another antlered deer and another 'antlerless' deer killed during this time frame."

Churchwell was booked into the Hawkins County Jail on Monday morning and released without bond.