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Friday, Oct 21, 2011County: Sullivan
Charges: Felony CTA
» Travis Scott Trent
» Van R. Trent
» Alex Thurston
An alleged dog-fighting ring which prompted the arrest of three Kingsport men first came to the Humane Society's attention in 2007, according to the Sullivan County District Attorney's Office, while two of the suspects also face child abuse charges in a separate investigation.
Grand jury presentments from Nov.1 indicted the men on numerous animal fighting charges. Court records list one known incident as occurring on or about Oct. 20 of this year, and another between April 1 and April 11 of 2010.
The Sullivan County Sheriff's Department and Sullivan County Assistant District Attorney Julie Canter have declined to identify the locations of alleged fights, or specify where an Oct. 21 search warrant was served.
Citing the pending trials, authorities have also refused to comment on whether charges could be placed against other individuals, the number of dogs potentially involved or how much money may have exchanged hands. Canter confirmed that four heavily scarred pit bulls were removed during a search of the undisclosed location. No dead dogs were discovered.
The three men were arrested over the weekend by the Sullivan County Sheriff's Office. Travis Trent, 41, of 1207 Imperial Drive, Kingsport, has been charged with 16 counts of animal fighting. His father, Van Trent, 66, of the same address, faces 11 counts. They have each posted bond and been released.
Travis Trent's alleged cousin, Alex Thurston, 25, of 2308 Kings Bay Drive, is charged with 13 counts of animal fighting. On Monday morning he remained held in the Blountville jail on a $20,000 bond.
SCSO Det. Richard Kindle does not believe their alleged operation is an isolated incident, saying there are likely others in and around Sullivan County. He urged anyone who may suspect such activities to contact police, but admitted the majority of people may not recognize the signs.
When asked what kind of items were confiscated during the execution of last week's search warrant, both Canter and Kindle declined to comment, saying the evidence would be presented in court.
The indictments state the suspects unlawfully and intentionally owned dogs, "for the purpose of fighting, baiting, or injuring another such animal for amusement, sport, or gain." The four pit bulls removed during the execution of the search warrant are now housed at an undisclosed location. According to a release from the United States Humane Society, the organization is providing, "ongoing enrichment for the dogs as this case awaits trial."
"Our goal is not to immediately euthanize them," Canter said. "We want to try to treat and rehabilitate the dogs from the heinous actions of the defendants."
Canter said she expects the three suspects to be arraigned Nov. 16 - the same day the Trents are scheduled for arraignment on child abuse charges.
On Oct. 14 a Sullivan County grand jury indicted the father and son on charges of aggravated child abuse, aggravated child neglect and aggravated child endangerment. Court records say the alleged incidents occurred between Nov. 26 of 2009 and Aug. 31 of 2010. During that time the child was reportedly between five and six years of age.
The abuse charges claim they treated the child, "in such a manner as to inflict serious injury." The neglect charges allege they neglected the child, "so as to adversely affect the child's health and welfare, and such neglect resulted in serious bodily injury to the child." The endangerment charges deem they did, "knowingly expose or fail to protect...from abuse or neglect which resulted in serious bodily injury to the child."
Due to the victim's juvenile status Canter refused to identify their relationship to the Trents. She said that case is not connected to the alleged dogfighting operation.
The charges related to the child are each class A felonies, carrying a 15 to 25 year sentence if convicted. The animal fighting charges are class E felonies, carry one to six years.
Officials will not release whose house the dogs were taken from, but neighbors say Trent lives on Imperial Dr. in Kingsport and the dogs were kept in the back yard on chains.
Neighbors say Trent's dogs were friendly and they never saw any signs of dog fighting. Our 11Connects team also spoke with a man in North Carolina who's on the DA's witness list. That man, Ed Faron, has written a book that includes stories of dog fighting and how to raise a pit bull. In addition he's also a convicted felon for breeding dog fighting pit bulls.
He was surprised he's a witness and says this is the first he's heard of the case. Faron says Trent was not the type to be involved in dog fighting. Faron says he sold a pit bull to Trent in 2001 but it was a show dog, not a fighter.
- timesnews.net - Nov 8, 2011 tricities.com - Nov 8, 2011 timesnews.net - Nov 7, 2011 humanesociety.org - Nov 7, 2011
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