Case Snapshot
Case ID: 19933
Classification: Hoarding
Animal: cat, dog (non pit-bull)
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Friday, Nov 2, 2012

County: McLean

Disposition: Convicted

Defendant/Suspect: Curtis Cleary

Case Updates: 3 update(s) available

A man accused of firing shots at his girlfriend during a domestic dispute Sunday now faces animal cruelty charges in connection with several rooms filled with dead cats and dogs.

Judge Michael Stroh set bond at $50,000 Tuesday for Curtis Cleary -- more than double the $20,000 requested by prosecutors -- on charges of aggravated assault, possession of a firearm without a firearm owner's identification card and domestic battery.

According to police, Cleary's girlfriend called 911 about 1 a.m. Sunday as she fled the home amid gunfire.

The McLean County Sheriff's Department and the Illinois State Police were among officers who handled the incident that ended around 9 a.m. Sunday with Cleary's surrender.

Cleary also is charged with two counts of cruel treatment of animals for allegedly starving or mistreating dogs and cats found in the basement of his home and in several rooms of a nearby barn north of Lake Bloomington.

Representatives of several local animal rights groups were in court for Cleary's bond hearing. They described the rooms of decaying animals they saw during a visit to the property that once housed Don't Bully My Breed, an animal rescue group founded by the late Catherine Hedges, Cleary's former girlfriend.

"It was the worst I've ever seen. Starvation is the cruelest way to die," said Tobein Tegard, owner of Wedrose Acres, a McLean County animal farm sanctuary.

Tegard estimated that five rooms in a barn on the property contained about 60 dead cats. "Some were just bones," she said.

A dozen dogs of mixed breeds were in eight rooms in the basement of the house and two were in trash bags outside, she said.

Tegard is working with the state Department of Agriculture to find homes for farm animals that also are malnourished and sick. She is taking care of several calves.

According to Tegard, Cleary broke off contact with Hedges' friends in the animal rescue community after her death in September 2011. She said food for the animals was found in the barn.

The assault and weapons charges related to the domestic dispute are felonies but the animal cruelty offenses are misdemeanors.

Cleary also is being held on drunken driving charges that he failed to appear in court on in January.

He must post $5,675 to be released on all charges.

Case Updates

A man who fired a gun at his girlfriend as she ran naked down the driveway and who starved more than 70 animals in what a judge called "a house of horrors" was sentenced Thursday to 30 months in prison.

Curtis Cleary, 30, pleaded guilty in April to aggravated discharge of a firearm and aggravated animal cruelty. The charges stem from a Nov. 4 domestic dispute at his rural Lexington home.

Police investigating the woman's complaint that Cleary fired a gun faced a grisly and disturbing scene when they went to the home, according to testimony Thursday at Cleary's sentencing hearing.

The house "was one of the worst I've ever seen," said McLean County sheriff's Detective Dave Fritts.

Inside the basement of the house were several dead dogs, and two rooms in a barn had more than 60 cats in various stages of decomposition, said the officer, noting that it was impossible to count the number of animals. "There was nothing but a pile of fur and small bones," he said.

Judge Robert Freitag told Cleary he was sentencing him for two separate offenses, both serious for different reasons. On the crime involving the woman, the judge said "her distress was such that she ran from you and your violence without taking time to dress herself."

The Cleary home was "a house of horror for these animals" who relied on Cleary for care, said the judge.

Assistant State's Attorney Kelly Harms asked for the maximum sentence of three years, telling Freitag that Cleary was on bond for a driving-related offense when the incident occurred. The prosecutor said Cleary's claim that others were caring for the animals was not credible.

After the hearing, Harms said "I think prison was most definitely appropriate. We have to speak for the animals and the victim in this case."

In a statement to the judge, Cleary apologized for his conduct.

"I have suffered from problems with alcohol and depression for many years," said Cleary, adding that he has a support system in place to help stay sober. He said he does not possess any animals or a vehicle.

Defense lawyer Chris Gramm argued Cleary deserved probation. The lawyer suggested "the conduct regarding the animals was not something he was alone in. The animals were brought to the residence by various people and in various stages of health."

About 20 animal rights supporters who attended the hearing disputed Cleary's claim that he was not responsible for the animals -- many of the animals were left in his care by his late girlfriend Catherine Hedges, who operated an animal shelter on the property.

The prison sentence drew tears and praise from the activists, including Tobein Tegard, who owns an animal rescue shelter in Gridley.

"We all feel he should have received the maximum but we're very relieved he didn't get probation," said Tegard.
Source: Pantagraph - June 7, 2013
Update posted on Jun 7, 2013 - 9:07PM 
A Gridley man pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and aggravated cruelty to animals Thursday in a November incident where shots were fired at his girlfriend and police made a grisly discovery of a large number of dead animals.

Curtis Cleary could receive consecutive sentences of one to three years in prison on each count or a term of probation when he is sentenced June 6.

Police were called Nov. 4 to the home near Gridley for a report of a domestic dispute. Gunshots were recorded in a 911 call placed by the woman, who ran naked from the home, according to Assistant State's Attorney Kevin Sanborn.

After Cleary was taken into custody, police found more than 60 cats and a dozen dogs that were allegedly allowed to starve to death in the house and a nearby barn. Cleary's plea is related to the cats.

Cleary also pleaded guilty Thursday to driving while his license was revoked and aggravated driving while intoxicated in an October 2011 incident. He was sentenced to 30 months of probation and 30 days in jail in that case.
Source: Pantagraph - April 11, 2013
Update posted on Jun 7, 2013 - 9:05PM 
An animal rescue group filed a petition in court Thursday asking that a man accused of starving more than 70 animals be removed from the property that once served as a shelter for abandoned animals.

Don't Bully My Breed, a nonprofit group founded by the late Catherine Hedges, was appointed administrator of Hedges' estate, including the rural Gridley home and barn where Curtis Cleary allegedly allowed more than 60 cats and a dozen dogs to starve to death. Hedges and Cleary shared the property before her death in September 2011.

Cleary faces charges of aggravated assault with a firearm, aggravated domestic battery and possession of a firearm without a firearm owner's identification card in connection with an incident Sunday in which multiple shots allegedly were fired at a woman. She told police she was fleeing domestic violence.

The suspect, who also is charged with animal cruelty, remains in jail in lieu of posting $5,675.

McLean County Sheriff's Department officers discovered the dead animals in the house and barn after Cleary was arrested.

Cleary was brought to court Thursday for the probate hearing at which Judge Elizabeth Robb removed him as administrator of Hedges' estate. Darcy Glass with Don't Bully My Breed was named administrator.

"I don't know why they are going after my house," Cleary told Robb.

Peoria attorney Kenneth Baker argued that the nonprofit organization named in Hedges' will is entitled to the property because Cleary failed to comply with the requirements of the lifetime residency given to him in the will, including payment of real estate taxes. He also failed to file paperwork in probate court as administrator of the estate, said Baker.

Baker filed a petition seeking possession of the property and removal of Cleary and any other residents from the property. Robb set a Dec. 27 hearing on the request.

Robb denied a request from a woman who identified herself as Cleary's mother to postpone the hearing until Cleary could hire a lawyer. The judge noted that the hearing to begin probate proceedings had been set since September.

Members of several animal rescue groups said after the hearing that they support Cleary's removal from the property but they are concerned about the wellbeing of farm animals on the property.

The state Department of Agriculture said the two horses, nine cows, three goats and nine pigs will be moved within 48 hours to another location while the case against Cleary is resolved.

"The livestock is being cared for and is in the process of being moved," said agriculture department spokesman Jeff Squibb.

The animals were determined to be "in acceptable condition" and were examined by a veterinarian, said Squibb. The removal is based on Cleary's inability to care for the animals because he is in jail.

The ownership of the animals is one of the issues authorities are working to resolve, said Squibb, because Cleary is part-owner of the livestock.
Source: Pantagraph - Nov 8, 2012
Update posted on Jun 7, 2013 - 9:04PM 


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