Some Outraged, Some Okay
By BOB PALMER
Jimplecute News Editor
JEFFERSON – Numerous area residents lashed out following the Marion County Grand Jury’s decision to “no-bill” operators of the Dixie Humane Society.
“Just goes to prove it’s who you know and not evidence that gets you brought up on charges in this town, and how many dollar signs are behind your name,” Rita Barr wrote in a Facebook post.
“This verdict comes as no surprise,” Christie Woodson, who lamented that District Attorney Angela Smoak limited her testimony to the alleged trespassing, said. “None of us were asked about a single dog. Not one dog. Angie (Smoak) never said the words dog, abuse, freezer of dead animals or anything relevant to the true crime.”
Bob Avery, attorney for the Marion County Humane Society, which operated the Dixie shelter, disagreed. “The Grand Jury was in the best position to evaluate the evidence and I am certainly not going to second-guess them,” Avery told the Jimplecute this week.
Stephen Youngblood agreed, “The jury made their decision, I’ll have to agree with them.” A statement given last week by the Marion County District Attorney’s office revealed that the June 14 Grand Jury session resulted in no indictments of Caroline Wedding and the other operators of the Dixie Humane Society shelter.
Charges will also not be pursued against some who may have entered the property off SH 49 on North Street despite police warning tapes. More than 70 dogs were rescued in November and December by local volunteers at the shelter amid charges of neglect and abuse.
Following an investigation, Jefferson Police Chief Gary Amburn said violations of the law had occurred at the shelter and referred the matter to the district attorney’s office. D.A. Smoak presented the evidence to the Grand Jury.“
On June 14, 2019, a Marion County Grand Jury spent all day listening to the testimony of 13 witnesses, including those who faced potential criminal charges relating to the operation and eventual closure of the Dixie Humane Society in Jefferson, Texas,” the statement from Smoak read.
“When the facility closed, over 70 dogs were housed there in what were alleged to be inhumane conditions which sparked media coverage and calls from some members of the community for charges to be pursued for animal cruelty,” Smoak continued.
“At the end of a long day and after review of testimony from 13 witnesses and additional evidence, the Grand Jury found insufficient evidence to charge the operator of the facility or others who were facing potential criminal trespass or tampering with evidence charges.”
Smoak noted the dogs have since been placed with other facilities or individuals by community volunteers “who responded quickly after the facility closed.” Attempts to solicit comments from Sheriff David McKnight, Jefferson Police Chief Gary Amburn and MCHS Board President Brooklynn Bradley-LaFleur were not successful.
Volunteers active in the Friends of Jefferson Animals, however, were vocal.“The evidence that they should have concerned themselves with was the 70-plus malnourished and sick dogs living in their own filth, some of whom needed immediate medical attention,” Dina Carroll said.
“Of the 11 witnesses I saw enter the building, not one of them was there to speak up and out for the mistreated or dead animals found. As for insufficient evidence, it is my opinion that not all evidence was heard or even asked for.”
“Curiously, as I walked into the courthouse before the commencement of the proceedings I was approached by a prior DA who reminisced about a previous animal abuse case prosecution where they called in experts from Arlington, measured the level of contaminants present, etc.
He commented that they got a conviction and the perpetrator is still on probation,” Steven Shaw commented. Based on his observations, Shaw also reported to that none of that investigation was replicated on this case.
“The most disappointing part to the events surrounding the Dixie Humane Society was the overt, double standard application of the law,” Steve Woodson said. “We’ve got freezers full of dead dogs, dozens of neglected and malnourished animals, but apparently, that doesn’t warrant even a minor citation.
Instead, the volunteers have been treated like second-class citizens and were forced to defend their actions.” “By the grand jury not bringing charges against Caroline Wedding or the oversight board, they are allowing dog abuse to go unpunished and letting everyone know that abused dogs are not a concern of Marion County,” said Kim Shaw.
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