After all, O'Neill had been working closely with the Missouri Department of Conservation for months on such cases.
Instead, on Feb. 22, the officials were there to honor O'Neill for helping the department net more than $28,000 in fines and court costs through 107 wildlife violation convictions in a five-county region.
Missouri Department of Conservation regional supervisor Gary Cravens, an Oregon County agent from 1978-87, said the award was given for O'Neill's "outstanding efforts in the pursuit of justice."
Cravens was joined by district supervisor Gerald Smith and Oregon County agents Paul Veatch and Brad Hadley for the presentation in the courthouse.
The extensive wildlife violation investigation centered on Craig's Taxidermy in Birch Tree, where more than 200 animal mounts were seized.
Of the shop's 103 customers on file, 33 were previously arrested for a total of 68 wildlife violations, and four had revoked hunting/fishing permits.
A field investigator documented 299 serious violations, and determined that 62 percent of the wildlife brought into the shop was illegal in some manner.
Interview teams documented another 126 serious violations.
The department reported the following:
* Made 240 seizures, including 90 deer mounts or sets of antlers, five turkey beards, three bobcat pelts, two raccoon hides, two gigged bass, one rattlesnake hide and 70 frog legs.
* Arrested three individuals on 11 warrants, including two for out-or-state felonies.
* Issued 222 citations to 41 individuals through five counties; there were 37 previous arrests on 20 of these violators.
* Maximum of 35 citations to one violator and an average of 5.4 citations per violator.
* Majority of citations were related to deer violations including 58 for illegal possession, 33 for take from roadway, 32 for take with artificial light, 23 for take during closed season, 17 for fail to tag and 15 for take over limit.
* There were 107 guilty pleas coupled with 95 cases being dismissed as part of plea agreements, 16 cases were lost to the statute of limitations, two were assessed suspended imposition of sentence and two were not prosecuted at the local prosecutor's discretion.
* All seized items except two deer mounts were subject to court-ordered forfeiture; the taxidermy costs associated with these forfeitures paid by the violators was $4,990.00 (not all seized items had been mounted).
* Total fines assessed equaled $19,335, and court costs were $8,732, for a total of $28,059 and an average of $262.23 per citation. One violator served two days in jail, another served 20 days and one was sentenced to 90 days with suspended execution of sentence pending successful completion of two years of probation.
* Hunting and fishing privileges were revoked on 16 violators for one to six years and two for lifetime.