Case Snapshot
Case ID: 16052
Classification: Shooting
Animal: dog (non pit-bull)
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Animal was offleash or loose
Person(s) in animal care
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Attorneys/Judges
Prosecutor(s): Heath Hall
Judge(s): Tommy Faulkner


For more information about the Interactive Animal Cruelty Maps, see the map notes.



Saturday, Jan 2, 2010

County: Madison

Charges: Misdemeanor
Disposition: Convicted

Defendant/Suspect: Alonzo Esco

Case Updates: 11 update(s) available

A Mississippi animal control officer accused of shooting to death scores of dogs was fired Wednesday from his position as a public servant, authorities said today. “As a result of not following policy, I asked for his termination” Canton Police Chief Vicky McNeill told CNN.

Alonzo Esco was required to capture stray, lost, or abandoned dogs and transport them to a city-contracted private kennel. Instead of following procedure, Esco allegedly killed at least 100 dogs and dumped them in a public water way.

McNeill said Esco is the subject of an ongoing investigation, but would not disclose further details about the case. She did, however, have a message to anyone who may have wanted to adopt the animals. “I want to apologize for any wrong doing if any has been done at all,” she said.

An animal protection organization has filed a complaint against Esco. “We will not let go of this,” Doll Stanley, director of In Defense of Animals, said in a media statement. "It is absolutely appalling and disgusting that an animal control officer working for any municipality would take it upon himself to violate city policy by shooting animals entrusted to his care.”

Debbie Young, a volunteer for the group, told CNN that investigators are looking into whether the animals were being used as bait for a dog-fighting ring.

She also said her sources told her Esco confessed to killing the dogs because he was “too lazy to drive them” to the kennel.

In Defense of Animals is hoping criminal charges will be filed against Esco. But Heath Hall, spokesman for the District Attorney for Madison and Rankin Counties, told CNN animal cruelty in Mississippi is a misdemeanor, not a felony.

“The only way the D.A. would get involved in this case is if the county prosecutor asked us to get involved.. or if there was evidence a felony was committed,” Hall said.

“It’s an awful situation,” Hall said. “To do something like this is very disturbing. But it’s not the D.A.’s case.”


Case Updates

Former Canton animal control officer Alonzo Esco will get no jail time for two misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty and dumping.

Justice Court Judge Tommy Faulkner ordered Esco on Wednesday afternoon to perform 120 hours of community service with the Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol.

Esco has 30 days to pay a $500 fine for each count and $320 in court costs.

Faulkner suspended the 120 days in jail that Esco could have served.

With two defense attorneys, Esco gave no comments and asked no questions during the sentencing. Faulkner accepted a handwritten statement that he expected from Esco 59 days ago.

“Mr. Esco has had a lot on his plate this year and he’s glad to have this chapter behind him,” said Esco’s attorney, Trey O’Cain.

Esco is suspected of shooting more than 100 animals and dumping the carcases in a Canton creek and possibly other sites.

In August, he pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of cruelty to an animal, which carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail or a $1,000 fine, and one misdemeanor count of illegal animal dumping, which carries a maximum $400 fine.

Esco was facing five counts of animal cruelty and four counts of animal dumping. After pleading guilty to the two counts, the rest were dismissed.

Esco was fired in January on suspicion of animal cruelty.
Source: Clarion Ledger - Oct 13, 2010
Update posted on Oct 15, 2010 - 7:07PM 
A former animal-control officer in Canton pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count each of animal cruelty and dumping.

Alonzo Esco's sentencing is set for Oct. 13 in Madison County Justice Court. He faces a maximum $1,000 fine and six months in jail on the animal cruelty count and $400 fine with no jail time for dumping.

Esco had faced five counts of animal cruelty and four counts of animal dumping.

Esco was fired from the Canton Police Department in January on suspicion of animal cruelty.

Authorities believe more than 100 animals might have been killed and dumped in a Canton creek and possibly other sites.
Source: Sun-Herald - Aug 11, 2010
Update posted on Aug 24, 2010 - 2:17PM 
Former animal control officer Alonzo Esco was fired from his post when investigators found over 100 carcasses of cats and dogs in a Canton creek, allegedly dumped there by Esco.

He's facing five counts of animal cruelty and four counts of illegal dumping, all misdemeanors.

"I would have to ask him if he has any remorse whatsoever for the acts he's committed," said Gail Brown, president of the group Mississippi Fighting Animal Cruelty Together.

While a number of animal rights activists were in Madison County Circuit Court on June 21st for a hearing on the case, Esco himself did not appear.

"He could have been here; he could have had an attorney, he could have put up argument. But he chose not to show up," said Allen Phillips, Madison County prosecutor.

The probable cause hearing is standard procedure, to determine whether charges filed against law enforcement officers have merit. But the judge dismissed the hearing in this case because Esco was acting as an animal control officer, not a law enforcement officer. The case will now be handled by Madison County Justice Court.

"We're not purposely dragging this out. But we're doing it so due process is afforded and there's no argument later that he was railroaded by a political witch hunt or any of those kinds of things," said Phillips.

Meanwhile, animal rights activists say Esco's case highlights the importance of making animal cruelty a felony in Mississippi.

"Research shows that those who commit these heinous crimes, say they set a dog on fire, the most they would be charged with is misdemeanor. But they go on to commit other crimes such as violence against people," said Brown.

Esco was recently charged with domestic violence in an unrelated case.

Prosecutors expect Esco will go on trial for animal cruelty and illegal dumping charges in the fall. It's unclear whether Esco has an attorney.
Source: wlbt.com - Jun 21, 2010
Update posted on Jun 22, 2010 - 3:44PM 
The citizens of Canton will have to wait a little longer before the city's new animal control officer goes on duty.

Police Chief Vickie McNeill said the city is holding off swearing in Inez Speaks, 70, as an officer until legal proceedings in the animal cruelty case against former animal control officer Alonzo Esco are resolved. The swearing-in was to take place three days ago.

Allegations surfaced in January that Esco shot, killed and dumped possibly more than 100 animals in a Canton creek, and a probable cause hearing Monday will determine whether there is enough evidence to arrest and prosecute Esco on misdemeanor animal cruelty and illegal dumping charges.

A Madison County Circuit Court judge will hear arguments as early as 9 a.m. Dog owners are planning to protest the ex-officer's alleged actions outside the courthouse prior to the hearing.

Speaks, a former city of Madison animal control officer, had been handling animal control duties for Canton as a non-paid volunteer since early April and was hired to the position May 18 to serve 20 hours a week with pay.

She said she is hesitant to perform the job in an official capacity, explaining that if Esco is cleared of the five animal cruelty and four illegal dumping charges, he could be reinstated with the police department.

"I would be out," Speaks said.

Esco was fired by the Board of Aldermen Jan. 5 on McNeill's recommendation.

McNeill did not publicly release Speaks' identity as his replacement until last week for reasons she has not disclosed.

Speaks says she wants to totally revamp the animal control unit if she is able to officially take on the job as a sworn police officer.

"Everything will be done legally and professionally," she said.

"I'm going to ride around and be seen and learn the city limits and introduce myself to the people. I'll be working for the people."

She also would be supervising a young male trainee who could possibly take over the position in 18 months when a federal government grant that is paying Speaks' salary is scheduled to run out. McNeill would not provide other details about the grant or the salary figure.
Source: MC Herald - June 18, 2010
Update posted on Jun 18, 2010 - 1:02PM 
A probable-cause hearing for a Canton ex-animal control officer accused of animal cruelty has been moved to June 21, said Madison County Circuit Clerk Lee Westbrook.

Alonzo Esco's hearing is to determine whether he is arrested and tried on five charges of animal cruelty and four of illegal dumping. It first was scheduled for Monday.

Each misdemeanor charge carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail.

Esco is accused of shooting and dumping numerous animals in a Canton creek while on the job. There may have been additional dump sites. He was fired Jan. 5, having provided animal control services for three years.

The ex-officer also was arrested for domestic violence last week. His girlfriend, Cameyosis Walker, alleges that Esco choked and pushed her and threatened to kill her if she returned to their home outside Canton.

Madison County Jail records show Esco posted $1,500 bond.
Source: clarionledger.com - May 2, 2010
Update posted on Jun 2, 2010 - 5:43PM 
A Canton ex-animal control officer charged with animal cruelty and illegal dumping last month has also been charged with domestic violence.

Alonzo Esco allegedly choked and pushed his live-in girlfriend Cameyosis Walker and allegedly threatened to kill her if she returned to the home they share just outside the Canton city limits, an affidavit filed in Madison County Justice Court by Walker shows.

The incident occurred on or around Monday, the affidavit says.

Acting on Walker’s claims, Madison County Constable Johnny Sims on Tuesday arrested 33-year-old Esco at the couple’s home at 108 Sunset Drive.

Madison County Jail records show Esco posted $1,500 bond.

Canton Police Chief Vickie McNeill has said Esco, who was fired Jan. 5 in connection with animal cruelty allegations, suffers from “medical issues,” although she was not specific about those issues.

The police chief said she is collecting donations to help the ex-officer catch up on household bills in light of his unemployment.

Esco allegedly killed numerous animals and dumped their carcasses in a Canton creek while on the job. There may have been additional dump sites.

He has been charged with five misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty and four misdemeanor counts of illegal dumping.

A May 3 probable cause hearing will determine whether Esco is arrested and tried on the animal cruelty and illegal dumping charges, said Madison County prosecutor Allen Phillips. The hearing will be held in Madison County Circuit Court.

Some local dog owners are planning to protest Esco’s alleged treatment of animals beginning at 8:30 a.m. May 3 outside the courthouse. The group has said they are bringing their dogs on leashes.

The case will be heard as early as 9 a.m., circuit court officials said.
Source: MC Herald - April 21, 2010
Update posted on Oct 15, 2010 - 11:41PM 
A probable cause hearing that will determine whether an ex-Canton animal control officer is arrested and tried on animal cruelty and illegal dumping charges is scheduled for May 3 in Madison County Circuit Court.

Circuit Judge Samac Richardson will hear the case as early as 9 a.m., said circuit clerk Lee Westbrook.

Alonzo Esco has been accused of shooting numerous animals and dumping their remains in a Canton creek near a shooting range. There may have been additional dump sites.

He has been charged with five misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty and four misdemeanor counts of illegal dumping. The charges each carry a maximum penalty of six months in jail.

If Richardson finds the case has merit, he will likely issue an arrest warrant for Esco that will trigger a full trial on the charges, said Madison County prosecutor Allen Phillips. The trial could be held as early as this summer, Phillips said.

It is unclear if Esco has hired an attorney. He could not be reached for comment.

Esco was fired from the Canton Police Department in January, having provided animal control duties for the city for three years.
Source: MCherald.com - Mar 25, 2010
Update posted on Mar 25, 2010 - 2:07PM 
A former Canton animal control officer faces multiple misdemeanor charges for allegedly shooting and dumping stray dogs and cats in a creek near a shooting range.

The charges filed Monday against Alonzo Esco by Canton Police Department include animal cruelty and illegal dumping.

Esco could not be reached for comment.

Because Esco was a law enforcement officer, he must have a probable cause hearing in Justice Court before the case can proceed and an arrest warrant can be issued.

The Canton Board of Aldermen fired Esco in January after the animal remains were discovered.

The problem was detected when a woman filed a complaint with the Madison County Sheriff's Department because a pet she planned to adopt never showed up at the Mississippi Animal Rescue League.

A subsequent investigation by Canton police found as many as 100 cat and dog carcasses in a Canton creek.

Esco's case initially went to a grand jury.

But the grand jury recommended misdemeanor, rather than felony animal cruelty charges.

"In Mississippi, our laws regarding animals are weak in nature," Madison County District Attorney Michael Guest said.

Animal cruelty and illegal dumping are misdemeanors punishable by up to six months in jail.

Canton has not yet filed the animal control officer position.

The Board of Aldermen is developing a new job description for the post in the wake of Esco's case but has not adopted it.

Esco served as a shared animal control officer for Canton and the county for three years.

Police have not said how long the dumping and shooting of strays may have gone on before it was discovered.

A bill that would make animal cruelty a felony died in the Legislature earlier this month.

Susan Coulange, chairwoman of the citizen group Canton Quality of Life, said she doesn't understand why the state hasn't adopted tougher animal cruelty laws, especially in light of what allegedly happened in Canton.

"It doesn't seem complicated to me," she said.

Canton Quality of Life has pushed to get Esco charged.

"I can't understand the mentality it takes to justify something like that in someone's mind - that something like that is OK," Coulange said.
Source: Clarion Ledger - March 12, 2010
Update posted on Mar 14, 2010 - 5:32AM 
Canton police did not meet with the Madison County prosecuting attorney today as planned to discuss proceeding with the case of an ex-Canton animal control officer accused of shooting and dumping numerous animals, Canton Police Chief Vickie McNeill said.

McNeill said prosecutor Allen Phillips was unavailable to discuss Alonzo Esco’s case because of personal reasons.

A receptionist at Phillips’ office said he is out today. Phillips could not be immediately reached for comment.

The Canton police department has been under increasing pressure from outraged Canton citizens to file affidavits that would corroborate the allegations against Esco. The affidavits would likely trigger an arrest warrant and a trial in Justice Court on misdemeanor charges of animal cruelty and illegal dumping, said District Attorney Michael Guest.

It has been more than a month since a Madison County grand jury remanded the case to Justice Court, but the affidavits are needed to proceed with the prosecution.

She said the police department is at a standstill until a meeting with Phillips is held.

“We’re not stalling or trying to hide anything,” McNeill said.

Last week, McNeill said her department would not file affidavits because none of the police investigators witnessed crimes in action.

The animal control controversy began when investigators discovered more than 100 animal carcasses believed to have been dumped by Esco in a Canton creek near a shooting range. There may have been additional dump sites.

Esco was fired in January.
Source: MCherald.com - Mar 3, 2010
Update posted on Mar 8, 2010 - 2:55PM 
Madison County grand jury has recommended that a former Canton animal control officer accused of killing dogs and cats and throwing the carcasses in a creek be tried on misdemeanor animal cruelty and illegal dumping charges, a court order shows.

The order was issued in late January but made public only recently. The grand jury recommendation is based on evidence the Madison County district attorney's office presented regarding allegations Alonzo Esco shot more than 100 dogs and cats and improperly dumped their carcasses in a Canton creek.

Circuit Judge Samac Richardson signed the order sending the case to Justice Court.

Esco has not been charged with any crimes. He could not be reached.

District Attorney Michael Guest said affidavits related to the allegations must be filed, likely by a Canton police investigator, before a Justice Court judge can decide whether to issue an arrest warrant.

"If the judge at the hearing determines there is enough evidence to issue the warrant, then that judge will have found probable cause. At that point, the case would then be sent back to Justice Court for a trial on the merits," Guest said.

Canton Police Chief Vickie McNeill said Tuesday that she did not know the status of the affidavits, and the investigator on the case was unavailable for comment.

Animal cruelty and illegal dumping are both misdemeanors, punishable by up to six months in jail. If Esco is found guilty on multiple charges, "the Justice Court judge would have to decide whether the sentences would run concurrently or consecutively," Guest said.

State legislation under consideration now would make animal cruelty a felony in Mississippi.

Esco was accused of killing and dumping the animals when police investigators, acting on a complaint made with the Madison County Sheriff's Department, discovered the carcasses in a creek near a shooting range. There may be additional dump sites.

On McNeill's recommendation, the Board of Aldermen fired Esco in January.

Esco worked as an animal control officer in Canton for three years. He also provided animal control duties for the county until the contract ended in 2008.

Citizens, outraged by the allegations, teamed with police to draw up minimum requirements for animal control job candidates.
Source: clarionledger.com - Feb 25, 2010
Update posted on Feb 25, 2010 - 12:16PM 
Madison County law enforcement officials are meeting this week to consider possible charges against an ex-Canton animal control officer accused of improperly killing and disposing animals.

County District Attorney Michael Guest, Canton Police Chief Vickie McNeill and county prosecutor Allen Phillips plan to go over the findings of the Canton police department's investigative report on the allegations that Alonzo Esco shot and killed more than 100 animals and dumped their carcasses in a Canton creek and possibly other sites.

The meeting could be held as early as today, Guest said. "We're going to discuss possible charges and in what court those charges should be filed in," he said.

If charged, Esco would likely face multiple counts of animal cruelty, which is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail. Many animal rights groups consider Mississippi one of the worst states for animal protection because of the lack of felony punishments.

Esco was fired as Canton's animal control officer Jan. 5 by the Canton Board of Aldermen after the police department showed the board pictures of decomposing carcasses allegedly dumped by Esco. He had performed animal control duties for the city for three years and also worked for the county as an animal control officer until the contract ended in 2008.

A citizen's complaint led to an investigation by the police department and the subsequent firing, McNeill said. A woman filed the complaint after a pet she wanted to adopt never turned up at the Mississippi Animal Rescue League.

Robbie Wilbur, spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Quality, said the agency received a complaint about the improperly disposed carcasses.

"We had somebody out there today (Thursday)," Wilbur said. "He went out there and checked three sites this person called us about, but we didn't find anything."

McNeill said the creek containing more than 100 animal carcasses has been cleaned up. She would not confirm the existence of additional dump sites.

Wilbur said DEQ will not likely do any testing for water hazards. "I don't think we're going to do anything from here."
Source: MC Herald - Jan 19, 2010
Update posted on Jan 19, 2010 - 8:21AM 

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