Jul 6, 2015

In dispute over property line, Meeteetse man destroyed town’s fence

In the midst of a bitter dispute over where his property ends and where the Town of Meeteetse’s begins, a man took matters into his own hands and ran afoul of the law.

Last year, when the town put up a fence on what he believed was his property, Forrest “Timber” Tuckness twice tore parts of it down. Last month, Tuckness pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts of property destruction for removing the fencing in late June and early July 2014.

“The town had put them up right in the middle of my shop,” Tuckness offered at his June 24 sentencing in Park County Circuit Court.

A sign just south of Meeteetse off Wyo. Highway 120 heralds Forrest 'Timber' Tuckness and his son. Cody News Co. photo by CJ Baker
He served two days in jail, was ordered to pay $380 in court costs, must serve six months probation and pay for the cost of fixing the fence. Another 28 days of jail time was suspended.

The sentence, imposed by Circuit Court Judge Bruce Waters, was the result of a plea deal agreed to by Meeteetse officials.

Tuckness also agreed to pay for the window of a town truck that was shot out while parked next to his property around that same time. However, Tuckness did not admit to actually doing that damage, and a misdemeanor charge relating to the offense was dropped.

The Park County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office also dismissed two other misdemeanor charges alleging Tuckness removed survey markers around the Water Street property sometime in May 2014; charging documents had offered no proof that Tuckness was responsible for the markers’ removal.

At issue is a lot right behind Tuckness’ residence, where the town of Meeteetse has a sewer lift station.

“Both the Town of Meeteetse and Tuckness claim this lot to be their property,” Park County Sheriff’s Deputy Hayes Randol wrote in a December affidavit filed in support of the charges.

On two occasions around April and May 2014, someone removed the survey markers on the lot’s four corners. Both times, the town resurveyed the property and replaced them, at a cost of more than $1,100, Randol wrote.

“Both the Town of Meeteetse and Tuckness claim this lot to be their property,” wrote Park County Sheriff’s Deputy Hayes Randol.

The town then erected a fence along the lot’s border — going directly through the center of a small outbuilding owned by Tuckness, the affidavit says.

However, two of the fence’s cemented steel posts went missing in late June 2014 and, a week or so later, some top rail and chain link also disappeared, Randol wrote.

Believing that Tuckness was responsible — and hoping to catch him in the act — the town set up a makeshift surveillance system, the affidavit says. Meeteetse Public Works Director Shawn Christopherson mounted a trail camera to the back window rack of a town pickup, aimed it at Tuckness’ property and backed the vehicle up to the disputed fence.

However, when Christopherson checked on the truck on the morning of July 9, 2014, he found the vehicle’s back window had been shot out.

“I told Tuckness that I believed that he was most likely bothered by the camera to the point to where he ... tried to shoot the camera but missed and hit the rear window instead,” deputy Hayes Randol wrote. “Tuckness assured me that he would not have done such a thing.”

Randol found a .22 caliber bullet or pellet inside the truck and believed it had been fired from Tuckness’ backyard. Footage from the trail camera showed it had been Tuckness outside that night, hanging caution flags from the fence, Randol wrote.

When the deputy interviewed Tuckness, the long-time rodeo clown reportedly said he’d hoped the flags would repeatedly trigger the surveillance camera. Randol said Tuckness told him the town’s camera amounted to harassment.

“I told Tuckness that I believed that he was most likely bothered by the camera to the point to where he had gone to the west side of one of his outbuildings that was out of view of the camera lens and tried to shoot the camera but missed and hit the rear window instead,” deputy Randol wrote. “Tuckness assured me that he would not have done such a thing.”

He did acknowledge having taken down the town’s fence.

“Tuckness asserts that the town is actually trespassing on his property and thought it pretty low that they put a fence right through the middle of one of his out buildings,” Randol wrote.

The sheriff's office arrested Tuckness in January and he spent two days in jail.
The Park County Attorney’s Office filed the five misdemeanor charges in January. Tuckness was arrested and spent two days in jail before his first court appearance. He then posted a $2,500 surety bond.

Tuckness was ordered to pay the town of Meeteetse $820.73 for the repairs to the fence and $204.32 for the broken window, though those figures may be changed.

While on probation, “you are not to interfere with any city of Meeteetse property other than through valid and lawful means, do you understand that?” Judge Waters asked.

“Yes, sir,” Tuckness said.

~By CJ Baker, cj@codynewscompany.com

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