Lawton McKenzie dozens of dismembered animals found, 26 live animals seized

Fremont, NC

Wayne County

December 3, 2008

A North Carolina man says his animal cruelty arrest is being "blown out of proportion" after authorities found dozens of dismembered animals on his property.

  (Photo courtesy of MyNC)  Lawton McKenzie tells The Wilson Daily Times that some animals were road kill he used to feed the dogs he raised. He also said he is studying taxidermy. The 28-year-old admitted butchering sheep and goats for food, but said it's in his Jamaican culture.

Authorities said they found knives, a machete and bowls of blood when they visited McKenzie's home in Fremont last month.

Investigators also found dead dogs, goats, sheep, owls and other animals.

McKenzie is charged with three misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty. He was arrested earlier this week and released after posting a $3,000 bond.

Update 1/7/09:  The investigation is ongoing, and more charges are possible, the Wayne County Sheriff's Office said. Authorities declined to release his exact address.

"There were multiple animals that had been decapitated," he said. "I don't think you're ever really prepared to see situations like this" stated Justin Scally, director of the Wayne County Department of Animal Control Services.

Other animals were being burned on what Scally described as "a homemade grill of sorts."

Investigators also found the remains of a decapitated dog with its front paws cut off, dead snakes, a dead turtle, dead puppies and what appeared to be a goat’s head on the grill.

Other items were unidentifiable. Investigators also found the remains of several predatory birds, such as owls, on the property.

An accurate count of how many deceased animals will never be available, Scally said, because of the number of unmatchable dismembered parts found on the property.

Neighbors said they had complained to animal control in the past about animal carcasses in the yard and about pit bulls getting loose from McKenzie's residence and killing other animals in the neighborhood, including a pony and two cats.

Scally said he had questioned McKenzie before and that he denied killing the animals, that they were road kill and that he was studying taxidermy and using the animals' bones to make necklaces.

Investigators were only able to charge McKenzie last week when they determined they had enough evidence.

Scally said the animals are improving and should all have no problems if adopted. While he said the scene at McKenzie's home disgusted his investigators, workers have been concentrating on the surviving animals.

"Our goal is providing the best care that we can for these animals," he said, "and to prosecute (McKenzie) ... to the greatest potential."

The County of Wayne has filed a civil complaint against McKenzie requiring he pay for the upkeep of the seized animals. The county also requested McKenzie post sufficient funds with the Clerk of Superior Court to insure the care of the animals for an additional 30 days.

McKenzie is scheduled to appear in court on the civil charge on Jan. 15.

Update 1/8/09:  A Fremont man facing three misdemeanor animal-cruelty charges said that he is studying taxidermy and that the allegations cost him his job.

Wayne County sheriff's deputies arrested McKenzie, after animal control officers said they found the remains of several dozen animals in house Dec. 3.

Among the items found at the home was what appeared to be a puppy's head in a plastic bag, authorities said. McKenzie said the animal was already decapitated when he found it on the side of the road.

McKenzie denied killing any animals and said he is an animal lover.

Last fall, McKenzie said he began picking up the carcasses of animals – including deer, turtles and owls – killed by vehicles, hunters or natural causes. He uses guides to taxidermy and pioneers' survival techniques to teach himself. He often turns polished animal bones into ornaments.

McKenzie said he doesn't see the difference between collecting dumped carcasses from the side of the road and killing and shooting animals while hunting.

“All of the animals … being left on the side of the road or left in the middle of the road, why don’t we do something with that? It could be used as a learning tool,” McKenzie told WRAL News on Thursday.

McKenzie said it bothered him to see the bodies of dead animals on the side of the road.

"The animals are dead. People don't have any regards for the animals. Let it be a human being and you keep rolling over it," he said.

He keeps some animal parts, such as a turtles' shells, to polish and use as household decorations, McKenzie said. He raises goats, turkeys and chickens and slaughters them himself for food. He also breeds dogs to sell.

Investigators removed 26 living animals from the house, including a dying goat, officials said. It was rushed to a local veterinarian's office and survived.

McKenzie told WRAL News that when he is done with a carcass he burns the remains. He said he is no different than a farmer or a hunter.

After news of the allegations broke, McKenzie said he was let go from his job at Sunshine Rest Home in Fremont. He also operates his own lawn-maintenance business, Handy Man's Handy Man.

He said he can understand why a modern society might view this as bizarre. "They don't even know where their eggs come from," he said. "They think it's cloned eggs. Where does your chicken come from? Where does your beef come from?"

Update 1/15/09:  A Fremont man, whom authorities charged earlier this month with three counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty, now faces a fourth charge because four dead owls were found on his property.

  (Photo courtesy of Chad Flowers/WRAL)  McKenzie, 28, of Old Black Creek Road, was arrested Jan. 6 after animal control officers seized dismembered animals, a machete, knives, bowls of blood and what appeared to be a decapitated puppy’s head in a bag. Investigators also removed 26 living animals from the home.

Owls are protected under state law.

A Wayne County judge ruled that McKenzie must also pay the county for the upkeep of animals seized from his home last month.

The county filed a civil complaint against him last week and also requested he post sufficient funds with the Wayne County Clerk of Superior Court to ensure the care of the animals for an additional 30 days.

McKenzie has five working days to post the $8,640 necessary for the upkeep of the animals or he automatically forfeits them.

McKenzie has denied the animal cruelty charges, saying he was studying taxidermy and that he began picking up animal carcasses for that purpose.

McKenzie will next appear in court on 2/26/09.



The Wilson Daily Times