Visitors Help Refuge Officers Nab Convicted Felon
May 13, 2010
Refuge Officer Ryan Seward
A handgun and magazine used by Raymond J. Trice
Quick response and thorough detective work by Refuge Officers and Missouri Department of Conservation Agents built a case that ended March 23, 2010 with the conviction and sentencing of Raymond J. Trice, age 26, on federal firearms charges.
Refuge Officer Ryan Seward was first on the scene after visitors reported that shots were fired along the wildlife loop of Mingo National Wildlife Refuge on April 10, 2009. Seward said that public involvement was key to the success of the case. Seward describes Mingo NWR as a community-based refuge with a dedicated population of regular and repeat visitors that come to enjoy wildlife observation, hunting and fishing. “The more friends you have, the better off you are going to be,” explains Seward, thinking of the people that he welcomes week in and week out to the refuge.
After interviewing witnesses, Seward discovered fresh 9 mm cases in the area reported by the visitors and along the roadway at several spots throughout the refuge. Thanks to timely and effective interviewing, Seward obtained key witness and crime scene information that was central to tracking down, arresting and convicting what turned out to be a felon “well-known by federal law enforcement agents for other possible offenses, such as armed robbery,” explains Geoff A. Donaldson, Zone Law Enforcement Officer for Region 3.
Also key to the case was quick coordination with Missouri State Agent, Mic Plunkett, of the Missouri Department of Conservation. Seward said that Agent Plunkett was instrumental in building the case and “played an essential role in traveling to Arkansas with Refuge Officers to interview the subject.” Subsequent interviews lead investigators to the subject’s place of work in Arkansas, Donaldson reports, and later the subject confessed to the crime and relinquished the loaded handgun to authorities.
Donaldson, reflects on the case’s uniqueness, saying that what started as a wildlife crime of shooting at deer and turkey on a quiet Missouri refuge, “took us to a small farm house in Arkansas that ended with a federal firearms charge, but its roots are in the relationship-building that the Service has with the public.” The success in this case, and many others like it that Refuge Officers successfully investigate across the region, is based on making connections with people and enlisting them in protecting our wild places.
Donaldson goes further to say that because of Officer Seward’s initiative and quick response in surveying the extent of the shooting, “The Service was able to provide the U.S. Attorney’s Office with more extensive wildlife crime violations and the perpetrator plead out to the firearm charge.