Case Snapshot
Case ID: 1379
Classification: Theft, Other
Animal: cat, dog (non pit-bull)
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Wednesday, Jun 15, 2005

County: Hertford

Disposition: Acquitted

Persons of Interest:
» Andrew Benjamin Cook
» Adria Joy Hinkle

Case Updates: 12 update(s) available

A month-long investigation into animal cruelty has resulted in a pair of arrests, individuals possibly linked with PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).

On Wednesday, Andrew Benjamin Cook, 24, of 504 Tree Top Street, Virginia Beach, Va. and Adria Joy Hinkle, 27, of 1602 Claremont Ave., Norfolk, Va. were each charged with 31 felony counts of animal cruelty and eight misdemeanor counts each of illegal disposal of dead animals.

Both were transported to the Hertford County jail, each under a $35,500 secured bond.

Ahoskie Police Chief Troy Fitzhugh said Cook and Hinkle posted bond prior to incarceration.

"We've been investigating animal cruelty and illegal disposal of dead animals within our city for the last four weeks," Fitzhugh said. "Our investigators determined that these incidents were occurring every Wednesday for approximately one month."

Yesterday (June 15) law enforcement officials with the Ahoskie Police and Bertie County Sheriff's Office were able to observe a white panel van drive next to the commercial dumpster located behind Piggly Wiggly in Newmarket Shopping Center. A person in the van tossed several dark-colored bags in the dumpster before the van attempted to pull away.

At that time, a traffic stop was initiated on the van - a vehicle occupied by Cook and Hinkle.

The bags located in the dumpster contained 18 dead dogs, including one bag containing seven puppies. An additional 13 dead dogs were found in the van.

A license check revealed the van was registered to PETA in Norfolk, Va.

It is not yet confirmed if Cook and Hinkle are official representatives of the animal rights group.

However, Detective Sgt. Ed Pittman of the Bertie Sheriff's Office confirmed, through the county's Animal Control Officer, that Cook and Hinkle identified themselves as PETA representatives from Norfolk, Va.

"According to Barry (Anderson, Bertie's Animal Officer), the man and woman told him they were picking up the dogs to take them back to Norfolk where they would find them good homes," Pittman said.

Pittman added that as far as he knew, persons identifying themselves as PETA representatives had picked-up live dogs at the Bertie Animal Shelter for at least the last two months.

Anderson, also involved in Wednesday's surveillance and subsequent arrest, was able to positively identify nearly all of the dogs found in the dumpster as the ones picked-up just a few hours earlier on Wednesday by Cook and Hinkle.

"Barry documents the animals as they are received at the animal shelter," Pittman noted.

Two of the 31 dogs were kept for an autopsy. The remainder were properly buried on Town of Ahoskie property.

Chief Fitzhugh praised the work of his lead investigator, Detective Sgt. Jeremy Roberts, as well as the outstanding corporation between his agency and Bertie County Sheriff Greg Atkins and his investigators.

Case Updates

Two former workers with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals were cleared today by the N.C. Court of Appeals of littering convictions in connection with an animal cruelty case that grabbed national attention.

Adria Hinkle and Andrew Cook, former workers with PETA, were charged with animal cruelty last year for euthanizing dogs as part of their duties at an animal shelter. The two subsequently were cleared of the charges.

In 2007, they were convicted by a Hertford County jury of littering for dumping the dead dogs in a private Dumpster. The trial judge ordered Hinkle and Cook to pay a $1,000 fine, $2,987.50 in restitution and a $200 community service fee. He also ordered them to complete 50 hours of community service, which was later reduced to 24 hours. Judge Ron Elmore, writing for a three-judge panel, said in today's ruling that placing the dead dogs in a Dumpster did not amount to littering. The prosecution, he said, failed to prove that the Dumpster was not a litter receptacle.

During arguments to the appeals panel, Gordon Widenhouse Jr., an attorney for Hinkle and Cook, had said that they weren't guilty of littering because the dead dogs were placed in a Dumpster.

An assistant attorney general disagreed, arguing that the Dumpster is not covered under the state's litter law, which says that litter must be placed in a receptacle.

Elmore wrote in his opinion that the assistant attorney general, Catherine Jordan, misinterpreted the statute.

"Placing a broken rubber band into a trash can at our court would be littering," Elmore said in the opinion. "Likewise, throwing a spent coffee cup into a trash can at the mall would be littering. Such a reading of the statute is inconsistent with both the plain language of the statute and common sense."

Hinkle and Cook no longer work with PETA, attorneys have said.
Source: News Observer - April 15, 2008
Update posted on Apr 15, 2008 - 1:42PM 
After 10 long days in court, it only took the jury three and half hours to reach a decision. And it was a decision that Adria Hinkle and Andrew Cook hoped for from the start.

The jury foreman announced, "The defendant Adria Hinkle is not guilty of obtaining property by false pretenses. "

The judge asked, "Is this your verdict, so say you all?"

The jury responded, "Yes."

That's when Adria Hinkle burst into tears.

The jury found her not guilty of picking up three cats from the Ahoskie Animal Hospital under false pretenses, a charge that could have landed her in prison.

The jury foreman announced, "The defendant Andrew Cook is not guilty of animal cruelty. Hinkle received the same verdict."

The jury decided that Hinkle and Cook were only guilty of one thing, littering, for dumping the dead animals in a private dumpster. Hinkle had only one word to describe how she felt.

Hinkle said, "Relief!"

Hinkle's supervisor Daphna Nachminovitch couldn't hold back her tears either.

She says she has made some changes because of the case, like making sure Peta workers know the rules for disposing of dead animals.

Daphna said, "Instructions are clear as can be, we thought things were clear and obviously somebody made a mistake, but no animals suffered as a result."

Despite the strained relationship with Bertie County, Peta Spokeswoman Kathy Guillermo says they will continue to do work in the area.

Guillermo says, "Hinkle and Cook are now under a 12 month probation period, they have to pay $1,000 fine and perform community service.
Source: Eyewitness News 9 - Feb 2, 2007
Update posted on Feb 2, 2007 - 11:13PM 
A jury found two animal-rights workers not guilty Friday of animal cruelty for euthanizing animals they took from shelters, and were convicted only of littering for dumping the carcasses in a trash bin.

Adria Hinkle and Andrew Cook, two employees of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, were cleared of eight misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty. Hinkle also was found not guilty of three felony counts of obtaining property by false pretenses.

Both received a 10-day suspended jail sentence and a year of supervised probation, meaning neither will serve jail time. Their van will be confiscated by police and each was ordered to pay $4,000 in fines and court costs.

"I gave the penalty I thought was appropriate," Superior Court Judge Cy Grant said.

As she left the courtroom after the two-week trial, Hinkle said she was relieved.

"Justice was served," she said.

Cook declined immediate comment.

Hinkle and Cook had testified that they euthanized the animals in the back of their van to relieve the animals' suffering. They said they disposed of the bodies in Hertford County, instead of driving them back to the PETA offices in Virginia, because the smell was overwhelming.

The animals were picked up from several shelters in northeast North Carolina.

Hinkle, 28, of Norfolk, Va., and Cook, 26, of Virginia Beach, had each faced 21 felony counts of animal cruelty until Grant reduced those charges Thursday, saying prosecutors failed to prove malice, a necessary element of the felony charge.

The pair was arrested in June 2005 after police said they saw them dump several bags of dead animals behind a grocery store. Police said they found more dead animals in the pair's van.

Local shelter officials said they were unaware that PETA planned to euthanize most of the animals it picked up, but a PETA official testified that she told county officials of the policy.

Hinkle testified that she never told the shelters the animals wouldn't be euthanized.
Source: MSNBC - Feb 2, 2007
Update posted on Feb 2, 2007 - 11:02PM 
Local officials knew that animals being picked up from a shelter would be euthanized, a defense witness testified Tuesday in the animal cruelty trial of two animal rights activists.

Daphna Nachminovitch, director of PETA's domestic animal and wildlife rescue, testified Tuesday that she told the Bertie County manager three months earlier that most of the animals would be put down. She said her organization's adoption program was small.

Officials have testified they were unaware of the policy.

Nachminovitch was expected to resume her testimony Wednesday in the case, which has drawn national attention to this small town in northeastern North Carolina. The defense could finish calling witnesses by Thursday, PETA spokeswoman Kathy Guillermo said.

An attorney for Hinkle and Cook has said the pair began euthanizing dogs and cats when the load of animals became too large. They were arrested after police said they saw Hinkle and Cook dump the dead animals into a bin behind a grocery store. Police said they found more dead animals in the pair's van.
Source: Citizen-Times - Jan 31, 2007
Update posted on Jan 31, 2007 - 12:49PM 
The prosecution is expected to wrap up its case today in the North Carolina trial of two PETA workers accused of animal cruelty.
The defense is expected to open its case this afternoon.

The judge said the trial for Adria Hinkle of Norfolk and Andrew Cook of Virginia Beach could last through this week. The animal rights activists are charged with 21 counts of animal cruelty, seven counts of littering, and three counts of obtaining property by false pretenses.

Both were volunteers with Norfolk-based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals when they were arrested in 2005 and accused of dumping dead dogs and cats in a grocery store trash bin in northeastern North Carolina.

Prosecutors say they killed picked up the animals from shelters and acted intentionally and with malice.

Defense attorneys say all Hinkle and Cook did wrong was illegally dump the animals in the garbage bin.
Source: WDBJ - Jan 29, 2007
Update posted on Jan 29, 2007 - 3:40PM 
Hinkle and Cook face 21 counts each of animal cruelty in addition to charges of littering and obtaining property by false pretenses. Their trial resumes Wednesday.

Lawyers in the case struggled Monday and Tuesday to find people in this town of less than 1,000 who weren't acquainted with any of the more than 60 witnesses in the case. Potential jurors who read about the case, gossiped about it at work or had opinions about PETA were thrown out.

Defense attorneys also decided that some farmers and avid hunters didn't belong in the jury pool, but they allowed three people on the jury who work for a slaughterhouse near Winton.

The trial has attracted lawyers, reporters, PETA members and curious locals to the rural county seat, where raising, slaughtering and processing chickens is a way of life for some residents.

There's even an anti-PETA presence, including a billboard on a truck reading "PETA: As Warm and Cuddly as You Thought?" sponsored by the Washington D.C.-based Center for Consumer Freedom, a group funded by restaurants and meat producers.
Source: Virginia Pilot - Jan 24, 2007
Update posted on Jan 24, 2007 - 3:05PM 
Dumping the bodies of dead dogs and cats in the garbage is wrong, but the president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said Friday that animal cruelty charges against two employees won't stick.

"It's hideous," Ingrid Newkirk, president of the animal rights group, said of the dumping. "I think this is so shocking it's bound to hurt our work."

Police in Ahoskie on Thursday filed 31 counts of animal cruelty, eight counts of illegally disposing of dead animals, and trespassing charges against Andrew Cook, 24, of Va. Beach and Adria Hinkle, 27, of Norfolk.

The two were in a North Carolina court Friday accused of throwing dead dogs into a garbage dumpster at a shopping center.

Authorities in Ahoskie also told 13News they will reopen an investigation into a similar occurrence from two years ago.

From PETA headquarters in Norfolk Friday, Newkirk said that the dogs and cats did not suffer in their deaths, so there was no cruelty.

She did say that PETA's policy is to euthanize animals here and then cremate them, not throw away the bodies. So, an investigation has been launched into the actions of the two employees.

Ahoskie police arrested the pair Wednesday night as they disposed of some bags into a dumpster. Police said the bags contained the bodies of 18 dogs; 13 other animals were found dead in a white panel van that's registered to PETA.

Authorities said the animals were alive with the pair picked them up from animal shelters in Northampton and Bertie counties. The two were picking up animals to be brought back to PETA headquarters for euthanization, PETA president Ingrid Newkirk said Thursday.

Police have said that Cook and Hinkle said the dogs would be found good homes.

The arrests came after a month-long investigation where as many as 80 dead animals have been found in dumpsters on four consecutive Wednesday nights. Ahoskie Police Chief Troy Fitzhugh said, "It just gets to you after awhile."

A veterinarian told 13News that one of the animals he examined had been healthy and he couldn't understand why it was killed.

Hinkle has been suspended from her job until the investigation is over. Cook remains on the job, according to PETA.

Today's hearing set a July 19 court date for Hinkle and Cook. They remain free on $35,000 bond. Each felony charge carries a maximum of 15 months in jail and the maximum term for each misdemeanor is 60 days.

After court, a tearful Hinkle said, "I'm devastated. And all I wanted to do is help the animals in the community. I'm devastated."

Her attorney, Larry Overton, added, "I think she's devastated about the way the situation apparently was handled and obviously about being charged with these crimes and the potential consequences to her."

Newkirk said the workers were picking up animals to be brought to PETA headquarters in Norfolk for euthanization.

Veterinarians and animal control officers said the PETA workers had promised to find homes for the animals rather than euthanize them, according to police.

"PETA has never made a secret of the fact that most of the animals picked up in North Carolina are euthanized," Newkirk said.

Neither police nor PETA offered any theory on why the animals might have been dumped. Newkirk said no one from PETA noticed that over several weeks Hinkle was returning from her weekly trips to North Carolina without animals to be euthanized.

PETA spokeswoman Colleen O'Brien said the organization euthanizes animals by lethal injection, which it considers more humane than shooting or gassing them in groups, as some counties do.

Hinkle has been with PETA for two years in its community animal project division.

Newkirk said PETA also runs a program in the three North Carolina counties to sterilize animals, and has encouraged them to set up programs for animal adoptions.

PETA has euthanized animals for years. In Virginia last year, the activist group euthanized 2,278 animals and sterilized 7,641.
Source: Fox 11 - Jan 17, ,2007
Update posted on Jan 17, 2007 - 11:43PM 
The trial of two People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) employees (scheduled for November 13, 2006) has been delayed for the seventh time. The defendants, Andrew Benjamin Cook and Adria Joy Hinkle, are charged with 22 counts of Cruelty to Animals and 3 counts of Obtaining Property By False Pretenses. According to sources in the Hertford County criminal justice system, the trial will not begin until at least January 2007.
Update posted on Nov 6, 2006 - 1:57PM 
A court hearing for two PETA employees charged with animal cruelty, illegal disposal of animal carcasses and trespassing was again postponed Tuesday.

The probable-cause hearing was rescheduled because a defense attorney had a scheduling conflict in an unrelated case, Assistant District Attorney Donnie Taylor said.

The hearing is now set for Oct. 14.

PETA employees Andrew B. Cook, 24, of Virginia Beach and Adria J. Hinkle, 27, of Norfolk, were charged with 31 felony counts of animal cruelty, eight misdemeanor counts of illegal disposal of dead animals and one count of trespassing.

Both have been released on $35,000 bond, and PETA is paying their legal fees. PETA suspended Hinkle for 90 days and did not discipline Cook.

Police began investigating this summer after carcasses in plastic bags were found in a supermarket garbage bin in Ahoskie every Wednesday for four consecutive weeks.

At least 80 animals were found.

Officers say that on June 15 they followed a van after it left Bertie County's animal shelter, staked out the garbage bins and arrested two PETA employees. They found 18 dead dogs in a bin and 13 other animal carcasses in the van, which was registered to PETA.

PETA had been picking up animals in northeastern North Carolina since 2001, when a caller informed the group of poor conditions in shelters, according to a written apology PETA President Ingrid Newkirk sent to Bertie County officials.

Bertie County and Northampton County officials and one Ahoskie veterinarian said they believed that adoptable animals would find new homes, while sick, injured and wild animals would be euthanized.

Newkirk has since said that dumping the animals into trash bins violates PETA policy. PETA typically euthanizes animals in Norfolk and cremates the carcasses, Newkirk said in a June 17 press conference.

Bertie and Northampton officials cut ties to PETA pending the trials. The counties are now euthanizing animals without help from PETA. One veterinarian in Ahoskie is continuing to receive financial support from PETA to euthanize animals from Hertford County and some from Northampton County.
Source: Virginia Pilot - Sept 14, 2005
Update posted on Sep 14, 2005 - 1:47PM 
David Harrell claims there are similarities in several incidents concerning the discovery of dead animals in Ahoskie dumpsters.

Harrell, the owner of D&E Properties, a local business that manages Newmarket Shopping Center and Ahoskie Commons Shopping Center, told the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald he remembers approximately nine instances over an 18-month period where dead animals have been found in commercial dumpsters located on the properties his company manages.

In each case, Harrell alleges the same type of garbage bags were found with the dead animals inside. He also pointed to the day of the week (Wednesday) in which these dead animals were allegedly dumped.

"All of the animals we removed from the dumpsters were in black, commercial-strength garbage bags," Harrell said. "They were the real, heavy-duty bags, the type that a person can't tear open with their hands. You have to use a knife to open these bags."

He continued, "Wednesdays seemed to be the popular day for the dumping to occur. We would check the dumpsters first thing on Thursday mornings and, sure enough, there were the black bags containing the dead animals."

Late on the afternoon of Wednesday, June 15, Ahoskie Police officers discovered the same type of bags in a commercial dumpster located behind Piggly Wiggly in Newmarket Shopping Center.

A joint investigation between the Ahoskie Police and the Bertie County Sheriff's Office led to surveillance set-up on that particular day where a white panel van was observed stopping alongside the dumpster. A person in the van tossed several dark-colored bags in the dumpster before the vehicle attempted to pull away.

A traffic stop was initiated on the van - a vehicle registered to PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) based in Norfolk, Va. The van was occupied by Andrew Benjamin Cook, 24, of 504 Tree Top Street, Virginia Beach, Va. and Adria Joy Hinkle, 27, of 1602 Claremont Ave., Norfolk, Va..

They were arrested and charged with 62 combined felony charges of cruelty to animals and eight counts each of illegal disposal of animals, a misdemeanor. An additional charge of illegal trespassing was later filed against both individuals.

The bags located in the dumpster contained 18 dead dogs, including one bag containing seven puppies. An additional 13 dead dogs were found in the van, along with a digital camera and a tackle box containing numerous items.

The Ahoskie Police executed a search warrant to obtain the images on the camera while the tackle box items are currently being examined by the SBI Crime Lab in Raleigh.

Meanwhile, Harrell stated he received a letter from PETA president Ingrid Newkirk, one citing PETA's willingness to reimburse Harrell for his expenses in removing the animals.

The News-Herald obtained a copy of Newkirk's June 20 letter to Harrell. It states, "If it is true, as it appears, that our staff members have done this, PETA owes you a huge apology. Such conduct is hideous and absolutely violates PETA policy. Although the case is still pending, I would like to pay for any expenses that you might have incurred in dealing with body disposal or related matters. Please let me have a bill for that and I will see that it is promptly attended to."

However, Harrell's company did not incur any costs in removing the animals from the Piggly Wiggly dumpster on June 15. That chore was handled by the Town of Ahoskie, who provided a backhoe and a Public Works Department employee.

The 18 animals found in the dumpster plus the 13 discovered later in the van were all taken to the old Ahoskie Wastewater Treatment plant and properly buried by town employees.

Harrell said he did not solicit PETA for any sort of reimbursement. He added that he was unclear if the letter was addressing the dead animals he found in the earlier incidents.

"We've been involved in the 8-to-9 other times that dead animals were removed from the dumpsters at the shopping centers," Harrell noted. "When the dead animals were found during the three weeks leading up to the arrest of the two PETA workers, the town handled that removal and burial as well. We took care of things prior to the most recent stretch of four straight weeks where dead animals were found. I can recall at least three times before that when I had to tie-up my workers in removing and burying the animals."

But Harrell stopped short of blaming PETA for those previous discoveries.

"It's not for me to say or decide whether PETA was involved in those, that's a job for the police and the courts to decide," he said.

Harrell said in each case he was involved in, approximately 20-to-23 animals were found. He said most, in his opinion, appeared healthy.

When contacted for a comment on Tuesday, Daphna Nachminovitch, PETA's Director of Domestic Animals and Wildlife, said while she hasn't seen a copy of Newkirk's letter to Harrell, she felt certain Newkirk was addressing the June 15 incident.

"Again, we apologize for what happened in Ahoskie on June 15," Nachminovitch said. "I can't tell you why Adria did what she stands accused of." (PETA has maintained throughout that Cook was an innocent 'ride-along' on that day.)

She continued, "All I can say that on this particular day, Adria broke a matter of trust. She has made many visits to the animal shelters in your area and has returned to Norfolk with those animals."

In explaining PETA's record-keeping procedures, Nachminovitch said a log was kept at the animal shelter by the county's Animal Control Officer. She further explained that the PETA employee picking-up those animals are required to log in the number of animals they bring in daily to the PETA office in Norfolk. When an animal is euthanized at the office, that paperwork is forwarded to Virginia authorities.

Nachminovitch said this one incident has greatly impacted the work PETA has done over the past few years in northeastern North Carolina. Two counties, Bertie and Northampton, recently ended their animal collection agreements with PETA.

"We built mutual relationships with those counties," she noted. "We made it clear from the start that not all of the animals we were picking-up would find adoptive homes. Those that didn't would be humanely euthanized. We felt we were making a difference, an impact on the well-being of the animals there as well as helping to educate the animal owners on safe and proper measures to help bring the animal overpopulation problem under control."
Source: News-Herald - June 29, 2005
Update posted on Jun 29, 2005 - 1:43PM 
A digital camera was seized from a van belonging to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, 13News has learned.

Authorities in Ahoskie served a search warrant Thursday night to search the contents of the digital camera. Sources told 13News they found 124 photographs that had been taken inside the van but declined to describe what was portrayed in the photographs. "It'll come out in court," the source said.

13News was told that some pictures were taken before the animals were picked up and others were taken afterwards.

It's part of the on-going investigation into the deaths of more than 30 dogs and cats that had been picked up from two North Carolina shelters by two PETA employees.

Adria Hinkle and Andrew Cook were charged last week on 31 counts of animal cruelty, eight counts of illegally disposing of dead animals and trespassing.

The arrests came after a month-long investigation in which as many as 80 dead animals had been found in dumpsters on four consecutive Wednesday nights.

Police staked out a dumpster at a strip mall on June 16 and saw a white van pull up and then bags were tossed into it. The bags contained the bodies of 18 dogs; 13 other animals were found dead in the van.

In light of the allegations, Bertie and Northampton counties suspended agreements with PETA for the Norfolk-based animal rights group to pick up unwanted animals.
Source: WVEC - June 24, 2005
Update posted on Jun 24, 2005 - 1:10PM 
Officials in at least two Roanoke-Chowan area counties are casting a wary eye on the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

In the wake of last week's arrest in Ahoskie of two Virginia-based PETA employees on animal cruelty and illegal disposal of dead animal charges, Northampton County Health Director Sue Gay has suspended the county's agreement with PETA pending the outcome of the case in Hertford County.

That decision came by a written order presented to the Northampton County Board of Commissioners during their regularly scheduled meeting yesterday (Monday) afternoon.

Meanwhile, Bertie County's Commissioners were to decide last night on whether or not to act upon a recommendation by County Manager Zee Lamb for the county to return to a prior agreement with Powellsville veterinarian Dr. Cheryl Powell to provide enthanization services to the stray animals at the Bertie Animal Shelter.

Both Northampton and Bertie currently use PETA for those services. Officials in both counties said they were under the impression that PETA would first have the animals fully evaluated by a veterinarian and then attempt to find them a good home. If that effort failed, they understood that PETA would euthanize the animals.

According to Gay, Northampton has used PETA's services for approximately one year.

Meanwhile, PETA has visited the Bertie Animal Shelter every Wednesday for the past two-to-three years, according to Lamb. The County Manager said Bertie used the gas euthanization process prior to 2000.

"In 2001, we put money in our budget to pay Dr. Powell for the euthanasia method of putting these unclaimed pets to sleep," Lamb said. "It wasn't long thereafter that PETA became interested in selective animals at our shelter. A short while later they began taking all the animals."

Lamb also shed light on last week's PETA news conference where photos were shown of the Bertie Animal Shelter and the condition of the dogs and cats at that facility.

"What they didn't tell you was the photos are five years old," Lamb said. "Our animal shelter is improved, so of it thanks to PETA spending their own money to help us upgrade the facility."

Hertford County has an agreement with Ahoskie veterinarian Dr. Patrick Proctor to enthanize unclaimed pets following a mandated 72-hour waiting period.

Dr. Proctor confirmed the agreement, saying he had been performing that service for the past few years. He said PETA pays for his services based upon documentation he provides to the animal rights group.
Source: News-Herald - June 20, 2005
Update posted on Jun 20, 2005 - 1:05PM 


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