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Thursday, Feb 3, 2011County: Carbon
Charges: Misdemeanor, Felony CTA
Case Images: 1 files available
» Jack Martin
» Terry Martin
Case Updates: 3 update(s) available
A Carbon County couple, claiming decades of experience in breeding horses, faces multiple felony counts of animal cruelty for allegedly starving half the estimated 63 horses on their ranch north of Bridger.
Carbon County Attorney Alex Nixon Friday filed 26 felony counts and one misdemeanor count of animal cruelty against Jack and Terry Martin, who bought a 253-acre ranch along Sand Creek between Bridger and Fromberg after moving from Washington state three years ago. At least six horses have been found dead on the ranch, and another was humanely shot by authorities, according to the complaint. Veterinarian Rebecca Cody from Beartooth Veterinary Clinic in Bridger said none of the surviving horses were healthy.
If convicted on all 27 counts, the Martins could face a maximum of 53 years in prison and $66,000 in fines.
"This is a very significant case in that so many horses are in such bad shape," Nixon said. "It is my belief that none of the horses examined were healthy by veterinarian standards. We're charging on the truly desperate horses."
In August 2009, Carbon County charged the Martins with two misdemeanors counts of animal cruelty, but the charges were later dismissed.
The Martins initial court appearance on the most recent counts is set for Friday, Feb. 25 at 9:30 a.m. in Red Lodge.
Last November, Carbon County Sheriff's Deputy Jon Croft said he toured the Martin's ranch to investigate a complaint that their horses were starving. But the deputy halted the visit when he saw Jack Martin carrying a rifle and wearing what appeared to be sagebrush on his head.
"I knew from previous experience with the Martins that they had access to multiple guns," Croft said in an affidavit supporting the charges. "I was unable to determine if the horses were starving at that point."
On Jan. 25, 2011, sheriff's Deputy Jeremy Niebauer, responding to another complaint about a dead horse, said he saw about 70 horses on the Martin's property with no grass, no other feed or water, and signs that the horses were eating sagebrush.
The following day, Cody and two Montana Department of Livestock inspectors saw a dead horse in the Martin's barnyard and one in the middle of a pasture. Another horse in a pen was unable to get up, court records state, and they saw an unidentified person dragging a round bale of "very poor quality hay" out to the pasture.
On Jan. 28, a neighbor, Shannon Stovall, who by then had lived next to the Martins for four months, said there was little to no food for the huge number of horses and that numerous animals were laying flat, unable to get up.
After obtaining a search warrant Feb. 3, one horse was shot and examined by Cody who said it was "severely emaciated" and had an "extremely high" level of parasites. The vet said the horse's fat level in its femur bone was less than 2 percent, when the normal range is between 69 and 99 percent.
Four more dead horses were found on Feb. 3, according to the charges.
On Feb. 4, someone donated several loads of hay, but the Martins didn't feed the hay properly.
"Even after hay was provided to the Martins, the last horse that died didn't have apparent access to hay and died only with manure in its stomach," Nixon said.
A second search warrant was served Feb. 11 and Cody evaluated 55 horses, concluding that none were in good health and 30 were very thin and emaciated.
The horses have been eating donated hay for the last two weeks, a relief effort coordinated by the Beartooth Humane Alliance of Red Lodge.
In an interview with The Billings Gazette Friday, Terry Martin again denied the horses were starving. After reading most of the charges, she said, "We're not guilty. We didn't have a problem feeding them."
The Martins moved to Montana after Jack was injured in a logging accident, Terry said, and they paid $500,000 in cash for the ranch along Sand Creek.
"I take care of my animals. They're my life," she said. "I'd never hurt an animal. I don't even eat meat. I'm a vegetarian."
Terry Martin said she worked as a horseshoer, as well as assisting veterinarians in Washington. The mare that was shot was one of her best breeding mares and was "just a little thin" because her colt hadn't been weaned, she said.
The Carbon County horses will continue to stay on the Martin property and be fed by volunteers. About 10 tons of hay bound to feed hungry horses in Yellowstone County was diverted to help the Carbon County horses, said Justin Mills, executive director of the Northern International Livestock Exposition in Billings. Another seven tons of hay is stored at the NILE ready to haul to Bridger, he said.
On Jan. 21, Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito charged James Leachman of Billings with 10 counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty for abusing some of an estimated 700 horses he keeps on the Crow Indian reservation 16 miles east of Billings. Leachman has pleaded not guilty on all counts.
Yellowstone County used misdemeanor counts, Twito said, because Leachman's horses are scattered over 20 miles, making feeding difficult and Justice Court cases move faster, so there would be a quicker resolution for the horses. Also, the misdemeanor charges can be upraded to felony charges later on, he said.
* Related: Charging documents: Terry Martin
* Related: Charging documents: Jack Martin
|Terry and Jack Martin appeared Thursday in District Court in Red Lodge before Judge Blair Jones and agreed to plead no contest to 26 felony counts and one misdemeanor count of animal cruelty. They were expected to change their pleas on Thursday, but that was rescheduled for April 5. No contest means the Martins admit no guilt, but acknowledge that prosecutors have enough evidence to convict them at a trial.|
The Martins each face maximum sentences of 53 years in prison and $66,000 in fines for allegedly starving nearly half of their band of more than 60 horses last year.
In exchange for the plea change, the Martins would be able to keep some of their horses and would serve a deferred sentence, according to Carbon County Attorney Alex Nixon.
"They will be on probation probably a number of years, maybe four to six years," Nixon said.
Red Lodge attorney Stephen Thuesen, who is representing the Martins, said the plea deal allows the couple to care for some horses under court-imposed conditions.
"It gives them the opportunity to show they can take care of these animals and they won't be convicted" of any of these charges after probation, Thuesen said.
However, if there is a violation during probation, Nixon said the Martins could again be sentenced on all the original counts.
Another hearing on May 15 will tackle the issue of how many horses can stay on the Martin's 253-acre ranch along Sand Creek north of Bridger.
"Part of the deal will be to have a horse expert determine how many horses they can have on the property," Nixon said.
On Feb. 18, 2011, Nixon charged the Martins with 27 counts of animal cruelty. The couple moved to Montana from Washington state about four years ago. Terry Martin said she has been breeding horses since age 12 and has insisted their horses have been fed properly. Carbon County Sheriff's deputies found at least six dead horses on their ranch in January and February 2011.
The Martins are caring for an undetermined number of horses on their land under supervision of the sheriff's office.
The Beartooth Humane Alliance in Red Lodge provided hay to get the horses through the winter of 2011, but it hasn't hauled hay to the ranch since last summer, according to executive director Diane Zook.
"It's my understanding from the sheriff's office the Martins are feeding the horses," Zook said.
|Source: billingsgazette.com - Mar 22, 2012|
Update posted on Mar 23, 2012 - 10:19AM
|A Carbon County judge this week turned down a request for a public defender for Jack and Terry Martin, a couple charged with multiple felony counts of animal abuse. |
At a hearing Thursday in Red Lodge, District Court Judge Blair Jones noted that the Yellowstone County Defender's Office turned down the couple's first request for a court-appointed attorney, saying they had too many assets.
"He (Jack Martin) simply told the court they would have to sell their land to hire an attorney," Carbon County Attorney Alex Nixon said.
The Martins moved to Montana from Washington state three years ago and purchased a 253-acre ranch along Sand Creek between Bridger and Fromberg. Jack Martin told the judge that private attorneys estimated their defense would cost $40,000 to $60,000.
On Feb. 4, Nixon accused the couple of starving half of their estimated 63 horses and charged them individually with 26 felony counts and one misdemeanor count of animal cruelty.
In separate pleas on Feb. 25, the Martins pleaded not guilty to all charges and were released without bail after agreeing to several conditions: to start caring for the horses, to transfer all firearms to relatives for safekeeping and to refrain from discussing the court case with potential witnesses or each other.
If convicted on all counts, the Martins face a maximum of 53 years in prison and $66,000 in fines. Their Red Lodge trial is scheduled for July 18.
The horses have been eating donated hay since early February.
Diane Zook, founder and executive director of the Beartooth Humane Alliance in Red Lodge, said her organization has delivered 67 tons of donated hay to the Martin's ranch so far.
"BHA procures and delivers the donations of hay. Then the Martins actually are doing the feeding," she said.
The Alliance has $3,200 in pledges so far and enough hay to last through July 1, she said.
The Carbon County Sheriff's deputies drive out to the ranch a couple of times a week to check on the horses, Zook said, and Lt. Josh McQuillan said the horses are in better condition now.
"I understand they are filling out and showing more activity, probably because they are healthier," Zook said.
|Source: billingsgazette.com - Apr 22, 2011|
Update posted on Apr 22, 2011 - 9:55PM
|A Carbon County couple charged with starving many of their estimated 63 horses appeared separately Friday morning in Red Lodge before District Judge Blaire Jones.|
Jack and Terry Martin both pleaded not guilty to 26 felonies and one misdemeanor count of cruelty to animals.
The couple was released without bond and Carbon County Attorney Alex Nixon has asked for a quick trial.
Jones ordered the couple not to posses any firearms or dangerous weapons. They also were ordered to make sure their horses are fed and cared for and may not move from the ranch and of the horses named as evidence. Also, if any of those horses die, the state must be notified and the bodies turned over to law enforcement officials.
The judge said he would sign a plan as soon as possible that will ensure the horses are being cared for.
The Martins bought a 253-acre ranch along Sand Creek between Bridger and Fromberg three years ago after moving to Montana from Washington state. The Martins claim decades of experience breeding horses.
At least six horses have been found dead on the property, and another horse was euthanized by authorities.
Veterinarian Rebecca Cody from Beartooth Veterinary Clinic in Bridger visited the ranch and said none of the surviving horses were healthy.
If convicted on all 27 counts, the Martins could face a maximum of 53 years in prison and $66,000 in fines.
It's not the Martins first brush with the law in Montana. In August 2009, the couple was charged with two misdemeanors counts of animal cruelty, although those charges were later dismissed.
In the most recent investigation, Carbon County Sheriff's Deputy Jon Croft said he toured the Martin's ranch on the animals, but halted the visit when he saw Jack Martin carrying a rifle and wearing what appeared to be sagebrush on his head.
|Source: billingsgazette.com - Feb 25, 2011|
Update posted on Feb 25, 2011 - 2:10PM
- billingsgazette.com - Feb 18, 2011
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