Same animal horrors, 'vastly different' prosecution
Thursday, April 6, 2017 By Bruce Burdett Sakonnet Times
Many of the animal cruelty survivors have moved on to much happier places, like these three sheep living nearby at Tiverton's West Place Animal Sanctuary.
Eight months had passed since the discovery of 1,400 dead and dying animals in a "hell hole" back in the woods from 465 American Legion Highway and Westport detective Jeff Majewski and fellow officers were well aware of the questions, comments and suspicions.
Like, 'Why no arrests yet?' and 'Nothing happened six years ago and nothing's going to happen this time.'
"But lots was happening, we just couldn't talk about it," Det. Majewski said after the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office (see separate story) announced Friday that 27 people have been charged in a 151-count animal cruelty indictment.
Since early January, he and others from the department, animal rescuers, veterinarians and others, had made the trek to Boston to testify before a Statewide Grand Jury.
"I and many others testified multiple times -- it was a very, very thorough process."
For one thing, this time the cases are in the hands of the state Attorney General's Office and the cases will be heard in Superior Court with the potential for more substantial penalties.
A van leaves the 'hell hole' with survivors during the ASPCA rescue mission.
When similar animal horrors were discovered at the same location in 2010, the cases (against some of the same individuals charged in this latest case) were pursued at the District Attorney level and in District Court. Some cases were dismissed, others settled.
"It is already vastly different than 2010," Det. Majewski said.
Not only is property owner Richard Medeiros of Westport charged with 21 counts, but every one of the tenants who rented lots there (26 since some of the lots were used by several people) faces charges.
In the aftermath of the discoveries last summer, some lot renters claimed publicly that they should not be lumped in with others since they treated their animals well.
"But the Statewide Grand Jury heard evidence of mistreatment at every single lot, no exceptions," the detective said –- "The indictment reflects that."
So vast was the case, so many animals were involved, that charges of cruelty were broken down into species, not individual animals. For instance, if a lot renter had 30 cows and many ducks that had been treated in cruel fashion, that would amount to two counts.
That Grand Jury was told and shown photos (evidence included over 34,000 photographs, a 100-page typed police report, dozens of veterinarian and necropsy reports and other documentation) of horrendous conditions, he said.
These included, he said, "Dangerous items such as rusty nails protruding from rotted boards, broken glass, old construction debris, barbed wire in horse enclosures, up to 12 inches of feces, no water or feces ridden water, no food or rotted food, feces ridden water, roaming rats and rats in food bowls, as well as other threats such as dead animals in makeshift enclosures with live animals . . ."
"The coordinated effort of teams of investigators from various law enforcement and humane society agencies made the difference in this case."
These indictments are the first step in a lengthy court process –- it is expected that each person charged will want to be tried individually.
This type of crime should not happen again, Det. Majewski said. "No amount of animal related education can teach someone they should not starve an animal, that they should not feed rotted-maggot infested food, that they should call a veterinarian if their animal is coughing and sick, or their backsides covered in feces, or if an animal is clearly injured and in need of care."
He also asked that anyone with information that any of those charged is still keeping animals anyplace 'please notify Westport detectives.'