St. George sternman admits to sinking rival's lobster boat
St. George — A man was sentenced Thursday, March 2, to 24 months in prison for sinking a competitor's lobster boat last summer.
Vincent Hilt, 22, of St. George, pleaded guilty during a hearing in Knox County Unified Court to felony charges of aggravated criminal mischief and felony theft.
Hilt is the second person convicted of the Sept.1 sinking of the 36-foot lobster boat Oracle owned by Joshua Hupper of St. George. In January, 21-year-old Devlin Meklin of Warren admitted to the same charges as Hilt and was sentenced to 24 months with all but three months suspended.
The case against Hilt's captain -- Alan B. Norwood Jr., 47, of St. George -- remains pending in court. Norwood has pleaded not guilty to aggravated criminal mischief for allegedly paying Hilt $500 to sink Hupper's boat.
Hilt and Meklin both have been ordered by the court to pay restitution of $16,267 to Hupper for costs he incurred. Assistant District Attorney Jeffrey Baroody said that damages totaled more than $100,000, but insurance paid for much of that loss.
The theft by Hilt was classified as a felony because he had two prior theft convictions -- both in 2015 and one involving the theft of a firearm.
The prosecutor pointed out that two witnesses said they ran into the two young men on Mouse Island early on the morning of Sept. 1. Mouse Island is located about 200 yards from where Hupper’s boat had been moored. Police gave a photo lineup to the witnesses, who identified Hilt and Meklin as the two men on the island.
Police then picked up Hilt at his father’s home in St. George. Hilt admitted he had been offered $500 by Norwood to sink the boat, according to the affidavit filed by law enforcement in court.
Hilt told investigators that he contacted Meklin and the two stole a skiff from a float at Wildcat Lobster in Tenants Harbor and then motored out to Hupper’s lobster boat. The two went on board and cut hoses, allowing water to pour into the boat. The bilge pump had been turned off to prevent the water from being removed.
Hilt and Meklin then beached the stolen skiff on nearby Mouse Island and walked back over a causeway to where Meklin had parked his vehicle and left. The two, however, returned to Mouse Island the next morning to get the skiff they had stolen, according to the affidavit. On that trip, they ran into the witnesses who later identified them.
Hilt and Meklin towed the skiff out to the harbor, dumped the outboard motor overboard and cut it loose, according to the affidavit. The outboard motor on the skiff they were in died, however, and they had to be towed back to shore by a passing fisherman.
Hilt told police he had not been paid, but Meklin later told police that Hilt had gone to Norwood’s home that night and come out with cash.