Social media and anonymous sources helped Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) investigators arrest four men linked to numerous crimes that took place over the course of several months in the Dupuis Wildlife and Environmental Area (WEA) and the Hungryland Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Martin County.
This case has been evolving since early last year and will have new developments Friday, next week and next month in court.
Justin Darella (DOB 12/02/92), William Roberts (DOB 07/09/92), Dalton Sloan (DOB 03/25/92) and Brack Platt (DOB 01/16/94), all of Martin County, face charges including grand theft, illegal killing of an alligator and unlawful damage to structure by fire. Investigators first learned of the crimes in February 2013, when an anonymous caller told FWC dispatchers that Darella and Roberts had been going to Dupuis WEA to shoot deer illegally.
The FWC didn’t have any additional information until two months later, when a complaint came in regarding numerous dead alligators in Dupuis WEA. FWC officers responded to the canal off Powerline Grade, near the L-8 Canal, and found eight dead alligators, all of which had been shot in the head.
Investigators were able to link Darella and Roberts to the case involving the dead alligators. FWC officers obtained a search warrant to look at information posted by Darella and Roberts on Facebook. During their investigation, officers found several pictures and posts connected to the illegal take of numerous alligators, hogs and other wildlife.
Through interviews with the suspects and other witnesses, officers were also able to link Roberts and Darella to a burglary and fire at the Hungryland Game Check Station, and Sloan was linked to the same burglary.
Platt was also arrested during the course of this investigation. Platt confessed to FWC officers that he and Roberts shot and killed an alligator while at Dupuis WEA in January 2013.
Darella is scheduled for a change of plea hearing in Martin County on Jan. 17 at 8:45 a.m. Roberts is scheduled for a docket sounding on Jan. 21, and Sloan is scheduled for a separate docket sounding on Feb. 18. During the docket soundings, the parties involved will determine if these cases should go to trial.
According to the Martin County State Attorney’s Office, Platt and his attorney agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in reference to the charge he faces of illegally killing an alligator. The State Attorney has agreed to reduce the charge from a felony to a misdemeanor.