Last week we told you about how Brandon Butler’s cabin was burned. This is our follow up to that article.
The southeastern Missouri man arrested Jan. 16 for allegedly torching a cabin in retaliation for a poaching complaint has a 17-year criminal history. His rap sheet includes burglary, poaching, physical assault, and traffic violations. The convicted felon also served prison time for possessing a firearm and controlled drugs.
Corey J. Landrigan, 32, was denied bail when arraigned Jan. 19 because according to a criminal complaint in Missouri’s online court dockets, his criminal past poses a threat to public safety. Authorities arrested Landrigan in connection with the Jan. 4 arson that destroyed Brandon Butler’s cabin on his 43-acre property in the Ozarks of Shannon County near Timber.
Butler cohosts the Driftwood Outdoors Podcast and formerly was executive director of the Conservation Federation of Missouri. He said he knew of Landrigan, but their only encounter had been a brief, friendly conversation sometime in the past.
As reported on Jan. 19, Butler filed a complaint with the Missouri Department of Conservation after witnessing a poaching attempt the night of Nov. 15, opening weekend of the state’s firearms deer season. Butler and his friends saw a truck enter a field less than 300 yards from his cabin, and heard at least two shots after the truck’s occupants illuminated the field with a light bar. Butler gave chase, got the truck’s license-plate number, and reported it to MDC investigators. He’s certain someone torched his cabin in retaliation.
Investigators learned the truck was registered to a woman who lives with Landrigan’s father. They also learned Landrigan wasn’t in the truck that night. Three women were involved in the poaching attempt, including the truck’s owner, and one of them confessed to the shootings. Investigators found no dead or wounded deer in the field or adjacent woods.
When Butler learned of the fire early in the morning Jan. 4, he drove 3 ½ hours to Timber from his home in Columbia, Missouri. By the time he arrived, all that remained of his cabin was smoldering ashes and the fireplace. Everything else burned or collapsed.
Butler has long kept three trail cameras trained on the cabin for security, including one in plain view of visitors. When he checked the “dummy” camera, he found someone had removed its SD card. The two cameras he concealed nearby in the woods were untouched. Their SD cards held photos of a man carrying a rifle and container toward the cabin. Photos minutes later showed the man returning only with the rifle as flames erupted from the cabin. A time-lapse sequence documented the cabin’s fiery destruction.
Investigators arrested the suspect after studying the photographs and crime scene. A hearing to discuss bond and legal representation for Landrigan was scheduled for Jan. 26. No trial date has been set.
Butler is disappointed, but not surprised that some locals and nearby residents fault him for filing the complaint. He concedes he should have been more specific in recent articles and podcasts in assigning blame, and said he faults only a small subculture near his property.
“I have the highest regard for that area, and hoped to live down there at some point,” Butler said. “I share the same values and freedoms most people there treasure. But poaching, trespassing, and running dogs during deer season are a problem in that hollow around my 40 acres, and I had to do something about it. We can’t allow poachers to keep stealing from everyone else around there.”
Butler has since learned that three other cabin owners within 5 miles of his property have also had their places burned in recent years. Two of them contacted Butler. One said he chased off a man he caught cutting his fence. The other victim removed a trespasser during the muzzleloading season. They both said their cabins were torched soon after the incidents.
Butler’s hunting buddies said they enjoyed hunting, fishing, and rafting the area, but had grown increasingly worried by lawbreakers during the firearms deer season. Eric Hoskins, a longtime friend, recalls his first gun hunt there in 2017. Two road hunters shot his direction to kill a yearling buck just yards from his treestand. They didn’t see him until approaching to finish it off, even though he was wearing a blaze-orange hat and vest. In fact, they scolded him for not putting blaze orange on an abandoned blind nearby to alert them he was hunting the site.
“They were road hunting,” Hoskins said. “I’d seen them flying up and down the road that day in their truck. We also see lots of people running hounds. They equip their dogs with GPS collars and drive around following them. They’ll say they’re hunting foxes, but we never see any fox. We see deer running around with their tongues hanging out because the dogs are everywhere. Deer season is the only time we see those dogs.”
Hoskins, a firefighter who lives near Indianapolis, respects Butler for reporting the poaching attempt, but warned him it would prove costly. “I’ve met a lot of great people down there, but others still think it’s their land and they go where they want,” Hoskins said. “They live in their own world. I told Brandon they wouldn’t just throw a rock through his window or break in and burglarize him. I said they’re going to burn your place down, and they did.”
Hoskins dismissed online critics who claimed the poachers likely needed food. “Those Facebook critics weren’t there, so they don’t know what happened,” he said. “The poachers were driving a new truck. They weren’t starving.”
Nathan “Shags” McLeod and Derek Butler, Brandon’s cousin, think Brandon Butler felt duty-bound to report the poaching attempt, not ignore it. Although they have received some recent local backlash, they continue receiving support from Shannon County residents who condemn the crimes. McLeod said Butler organized a cleanup Jan. 23 and 24. About 18 people showed up, and some were strangers who just wanted to help.
“We salvaged very little, and the smell and soot really gets to you, but everyone pitched in,” McLeod said. “You get all smudged and when you sneeze, everything comes out black. You carry the soot and smoke with you when you leave.”
Butler said the cleanup felt like a two-day funeral, but he kept reminding himself his loss isn’t unique. “I heard from a lot of people around the country who suffered similar crimes, and the arsonist in many cases was never caught,” he said. “I can’t imagine what it would feel like if the person was still out there, and could do it again to someone else.”