Public defender assigned to horse abuse case

Public defender assigned to horse abuse case

TUSCOLA – A Mattoon woman could be sentenced to up to a year in jail in connection with the death of two horses at a horse training center in rural Douglas County.

Roxanne Smith, 47, who listed an address on the 600 block of Marion Street in Mattoon, was scheduled to appear before Circuit Judge Chris Freese at the Douglas County Courthouse on Tuesday morning.

Smith had been arraigned on March 5 on five misdemeanor counts.

According to Assistant State's Attorney Kate Watson, Smith had been charged with one count of cruelty to animals, one count of failure to provide food to animals, one count of failure to provide veterinary care to animals and two counts of unlawful disposal of a dead animal.

If convicted, Smith faces up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

When Smith failed to appear in court on Tuesday morning, Freese issued a warrant for her arrest.

On Tuesday afternoon Smith showed up at the courthouse and requested a public defender. Freese assigned Public Defender Jeannine Garrett to Smith's case. Smith was then released on $3,000 bond.

According to a Douglas County sheriff's report, deputies were helping serve an eviction notice at the Three Crosses Learning Center on U.S. 36 east of Tuscola on Feb. 10 when they discovered two dead horses and several others in distress.

Deputies called an area horse rescue organization, the Dewey-based Society for Hooved Animals Rescue and Emergency.

Three of its members who are trained as animal investigators for the state Department of Agriculture then visited the center.

Linda Hewerdine, the society's founder and a state investigator, said her team found two dead horses, a buckskin gelding and a paint mare, that had been in a stall for two weeks. Fourteen other horses were found in various stages of distress, and two puppies were trying to eat the carcass of a dead horse because they were hungry.

The four horses in the worst condition were taken to the rescue organization's farm in rural Dewey on Feb. 11. Hewerdine said the remaining horses at the training center were taken to another farm in rural Dewey.

Douglas County Sheriff Charlie McGrew said his deputies then began to investigate the situation with the help of the Douglas County animal control department and the state Department of Agriculture.

Freese is hearing the case because Douglas County Judge Michael Carroll recused himself since he once represented Johnnie Dobbs, the owner of the Three Crosses farm.

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