Teens charged with turkey killing plead not guilty

Ottawa County

HUDSONVILLE, Mich. (WOOD) — Four teenagers accused of brutally killing a neighborhood turkey named Mr. Gobbles had their first day in an Ottawa County court Tuesday.

Concerned neighbors from the Waukazoo Woods neighborhood of Park Township filled the courtroom Tuesday to watch Elijah VanderLee, Thomas Sinclair, Benjamin Slenk and Megan DeMeester appear before a judge.

All four teens pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor charge of unlawfully taking a turkey in connection to the Fourth of July attack on the bird. The teens then proceeded with pretrial conferences.

Wild turkey killed
Feathers are seen in the Waukazoo Woods neighborhood the week after neighbors say a friendly wild turkey was killed by a group of teens. (July 9, 2019)

A neighbor said their daughter witnessed a group of teenagers attack Mr. Gobbles near Waukazoo and Edgewood drives, running over the bird with a car, beating it with a golf club and metal pole, and using a pellet gun against the wild turkey.

Some neighbors say they were not surprised to hear Mr. Gobbles had been killed because he was often aggressive. However, neighbors want those responsible held accountable.

Animal conservationist Lynn Truhn lives a few hundred feet away from where Mr. Gobbles died. She previously told News 8 she’s concerned the bird’s attackers could commit more serious acts.

“If somebody can do that to a turkey, they can do it to a human,” Truhn said.

Prosecutors say they have new video and photographic evidence they will use in their case against the teens. The trial date has not yet been set.

If convicted, all four teens could face up to $2,000 in fines and 90 days in jail.

***CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misspelled three of the teenagers’ last names. We regret this error, which has since been corrected.***

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