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Oregon man accused of killing 18,000 pre-smolt salmon fails to make court appearance

Dead fish being poured into tote.
Gardiner Reedsport Winchester Bay Salmon Trout Enhancement Program
Photos taken by hatchery staff show dead pre-molt Chinook salmon after Joshua A. Heckathorn allegedly dumped bleach into their holding tank. Roughly 18,000 fish were poisoned and were removed from the facility.

Douglas County authorities have issued a warrant for the suspect in last month’s destruction of 18,000 juvenile salmon at a Reedsport hatchery. 

20-year-old Joshua Alexander Heckathorn of Gardiner was a no-show at court on Monday. He had been scheduled for his first court appearance on May 16, but told officials he had transportation issues and couldn’t make it.

But with his failure to make his re-scheduled appearance, Douglas County Circuit Court Judge Jason Thomas issued a bench warrant for Heckathorn. 

“He’s not showing, the warrant will issue,” said Thomas. “And we’ll see if we can help Mr. Heckathorn find his way back to court.” 

The warrant allows law enforcement to detain Heckathorn and bring him in on $10,000 bail.

Heckathorn is accused of breaking into a Reedsport hatchery and pouring bleach into a tank with thousands of young Chinook salmon. He’s charged with burglary, criminal trespass, and criminal mischief. 

Copyright 2024, KLCC.

Brian Bull is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, and remains a contributor to the KLCC news department. He began working with KLCC in June 2016.   In his 27+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional),  the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from  the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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