ROGERSVILLE — Based on statements made by suspects detained at an alleged Hawkins County cockfighting tournament Saturday, police believe it’s a regular event that takes place at multiple venues.
Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office Detective Chris Price told the Times-News Tuesday the owner of the property on Poor Valley Road where the cockfighting tournament took place Saturday will be identified, and if that person is linked to Saturday’s cockfighting tournament, the property owner will be charged.
As of Tuesday the investigation was ongoing, but Price did release the names of the seven men who were caught during Saturday’s cockfighting raid.
Around 4:30 p.m. Saturday an anonymous tipster told the HCSO that about 50 people were involved in a cockfight on Poor Valley Road north of Rogersville across from the Price Road intersection.
When deputies arrived on the scene, the bulk of the participants had apparently fled, but deputies reportedly found seven individuals scattered in the woods near the property where the cockfighting took place.
Those seven were identified as:
• Ricky Gene Hatley, 44, of Bean Station.
• Joseph Eugene Mills Jr., 36, of Blaine.
• Steven Ray Wilson, 20, of Knoxville.
• Matthew Wayne Miller, 40, 1220 Lloyds Chapel Road, Mount Carmel.
• Matthew David Walker, 22, of Knoxville.
• Craig Robert Helton, 42, 197 Poor Valley Road, Rogersville.
• Larry Steven Helton, 38, 117 Race Track Road, Rogersville.
Price said the seven admitted to their participation in the event — either as spectators or by bringing roosters to fight. All seven were cited on one count of cockfighting, a Class A misdemeanor, and were released on their own recognizance.
Upon being questioned by deputies, however, some of the participants reportedly made comments suggesting Saturday’s tournament wasn’t an isolated incident.
“Just from conversations we had with them, I don’t think this is the first time this has happened,” Price said. “They kept saying, ‘Who called you? Who called you?’”
Price noted that the HCSO was informed of the tournament by an anonymous caller, but even if the caller was known to deputies the name would never be released.
Price added, “One of them made the comment, ‘Did you come straight here, or did you go to the other location first?’ Based on those comments I would say this a regular event held at more than one location — especially with that many people being involved, coming from so many different areas between here and Knoxville.”
When deputies arrived on the scene Saturday they found a pickup parked off the roadway. In the bed of the pickup deputies found eight dead roosters in a garbage bag.
Deeper into the property they found a large storage shelter with three walls and a roof that contained several crates with live roosters inside, as well as a big square stall littered with feathers apparently used as a fighting ring.
“There was also a trophy in there that had a big gold rooster on it,” Price said. “The trophy said, ‘Gobbler’s Knob 2013’, and it was sitting up in the corner, so I guess that was the grand prize.”
Anyone with information about the ongoing cockfighting tournaments is asked to call the HCSO at (423) 272-4848. All callers will remain anonymous.