Who, age What Where When Last known address
Grover Junior Kegley, 40 12 miniature horses, 1 pony seized, 1 horse dies

Nickelsville, VA

Scott County

July 28, 2006  
Type of Crime Other Crimes #/Type of animal(s) involved Case Status Next Court Date
Misdemeanor   13 horses Convicted  

Grover Junior Kegley, 40, of Route 1, Nickelsville – charged with 13 misdemeanor counts of cruelty to animals involving miniature horses and ponies, pled guilty to four counts on August 10th during his appearance in Scott County General District Court before Judge Larry Lewis. Kegley’s fate on the additional nine charges will be decided by Judge Lewis after he reviews briefs filed by attorneys on both sides. Judge Lewis is expected to render a decision on final charges on September 5th.

Kegley was charged July 28th with the counts dealing with 12 miniature horses and one pony discovered during the execution of a search warrant on his property in the McConnell Hollow community.

During the trial, Scott County Animal Control Officer Rick Barger testified he had received a complaint on July 27th of a pony that was suspected to be living in a horse trailer for as long as two years. Barger stated he observed the pony in the trailer putting his nose through the slats and found other miniature horses on the property in need of medical attention. He further stated that he obtained search warrants and notified the State Veterinarian’s Office and the Commonwealth Attorney’s office. Barger testified that the pony in the trailer had apparently not been taken out of the trailer for some time – grass had grown up around the horse trailer that had plywood walls.

A search of Kegley’s property revealed a total of 13 horses in various stages of health. Three miniature horses were found very emaciated and one had difficulty walking. Veterinarian Dr. David Redwine examined one of the horses at the site after it fell down. Veterinarian Dr. Bill Fuller had examined the same horse a few days later after it suffered from seizures. Dr. Redwine looked at all the horses as they were loaded onto horse trailers and taken off the property.

The Scott County Regional Horse Association has all of the horse currently in the custody of their members. One of the horses died since it was removed but the others remain in fair to good shape.

Dr. Redwine testified that some of the horses in the third field looked better than others. He described them as strong but hard to restrain. He further stated that grass food was available for the horses but could not say if he saw grain bins or pans. Dr. Redwine further testified that the pony in the trailer had adequate body condition – neither fat or thin, and referred to it as free spirited, rather than wild. He did state that the pony could possibly require long-term care because it had long, overgrown hooves. Judge Lewis asked Dr. Redwine if the case only involved the seven horses in the larger field, would he have found anything wrong and Dr. Redwine replied no, he would not have.

Dr. Fuller testified that he knew Kegley but had not previously treated any of his horses. He also described three very emaciated horses that he examined on two different occasions. One of the three died and one other is still very thin and weak. When asked for a cause of death of the horse, Dr. Fuller described it as very thin and weak but would not say emaciation was the cause of death.

David Finch, whose brother is a neighbor of Kegley, testified that he had never seen one of the small horses outside of the field. He also described the horses as skinny and weak. He further stated that he never saw Kegley caring for the animals.

Kegley’s attorney Carl McAfee explained there was not sufficient evidence based on Dr. Redwine’s veterinarian report to convict his client on the nine charges. Prosecutor Dan Fellhauer countered that the evidence was there for a conviction sufficient for the seizure of the animals.

The commonwealth asked for Kegley to be found guilty on all 13 counts; for all 13 horses to be seized and Kegley ordered to never own horses again. Jude Lewis explained that he was not sure by state law, if he could give that order and specified both attorneys to file briefs on all positions, both civil and criminal with their justifications for their position.

Cruelty to animals is a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum sentence of 12 months in jail and a $2500 fine.

Update 11/24/06:  Kegley, who pled guilty to four charges of animal cruelty and was found guilty on two other counts is appealing his sentence. Kegley pled guilty to four charges of animal cruelty stemming from the discovery this summer of 13 malnourished animals. General District Judge Larry Lewis found Kegley guilty on two other counts.

Kegley was sentenced to a year on each of the six convictions, with 10 months suspended on each charge. He would have to serve two months consecutively on all six counts plus pay restitution to the SCHA for boarding of the horses, feed and veterinary bills. He was also fined $5,000 and given two years supervised and three years unsupervised probation. Kegley appealed the sentence to Scott County Circuit Court.

Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Dan Fellhauer petitioned to have all the animals permanently removed from Kegley and have a stipulation to his punishment be that he never again own companion animals. That order was denied, and the seven horses he was found not guilty of abusing were returned to Kegley. A Civil Forfeiture Case that would have allowed Fellhauer to have all the horses removed from Kegley is also being appealed.

Fellhauer stated, "He's appealed that, and they are pending a trial which will probably be scheduled for December." "The jury could find him not guilty, guilty with a possible year on each sentence, or he could plead guilty and ask the judge to sentence him."

The animals - 12 miniature horses and one pony - were in various stages of malnourishment, said Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Dan Fellhauer.

Kegley owned all 13 animals, Fellhauer said.

Of the 13 animals, four were in bad shape, and one of those died, Fellhauer said.

Fellhauer petitioned to have all the animals permanently removed from Kegley and have a stipulation to his punishment be that he never again own companion animals. That order was denied, and the seven horses he was found not guilty of abusing were returned to Kegley.

A civil forfeiture case that would have allowed Fellhauer to have all the horses removed from Kegley is also being appealed.

Update 1/12/07:  A 41-year-old Nickelsville man charged with cruelty to a herd of horses and ponies entered a plea and will make restitution to the county for care of the animals.

13 of Kegley's horses were removed July 28, 2006, after they were found to be malnourished.  Of the original 13, one died shortly after the horses were seized. Another two were sick, but recovered.

Seven of the animals recovered well and were returned to Kegley. The five remaining animals - four miniatures horses and one pony - will be disposed of by the Scott County Regional Horse Association.  "Disposed of in the legal sense," said Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Dan Fellhauer.

Members of the association have cared for the horses since they were seized from Kegley's farm in July.

The decision was made to offer a plea agreement to Kegley in order to find the animals new homes more quickly, Fellhauer said.  "We wanted to do an adoption rather than an auction to get the best home for them," he said.

If the cases had been taken to trial, the horses could have been left in limbo until a final disposition of all the charges. That could have taken two years or more, Fellhauer said.  There is also the chance that a judge would have objected to Kegley being charged with six different counts of animal cruelty, Fellhauer said.

Kegley was given 12 months suspended jail time on each of six counts of animal cruelty. He will serve from one to three years of supervised probation depending on how well he follows the rules of his probation. He will serve the remainder of a six-year probation period unsupervised.

Kegley also agreed to pay $8,000 in restitution to the county and almost $2,000 in court costs, Fellhauer said.  "He agreed to pay the restitution for boarding and vet bills and to allow the horses to be adopted, Fellhauer said.

Though it would have been difficult to prove Kegley owned the horses and ponies, he was responsible for them at the time they were seized, Fellhauer said.

"He did a good thing by pleading guilty and taking responsibility," Fellhauer said.

After Kegley signs documents allowing the horses to be adopted, the Scott County Regional Horse Association will start a screening process, Fellhauer said.

Reference:

Scott County Virginia Star

Times News