Red Willow County will not press charges against the Indianola-area farmer-rancher who starved to death 111 cattle and fed and watered poorly 143 others.
A statement released this morning by Sheriff Gene Mahon and County Attorney Paul Wood indicates that the farmer-rancher sold the live cattle and disposed of the dead cattle, "in exchange for no criminal prosecution."
The statement reads: "This decision was not made lightly. It was made with the knowledge that some people would not agree with it, and some perhaps would be critical. The purpose of this statement is not necessarily to attempt to change any such sentiments that may be held by any individual. The purpose is to inform the public as to why this matter was handled in (the fashion that it was), and to convey some understanding of the magnitude of the conditions and possible solutions confronting county authorities after the (initial) report was made."
The statement indicates that a citizen (who requested that he remain anonymous) reported the dead and dying cattle to the sheriff's office on Jan. 13. Sheriff's officers and an investigator from the Nebraska Brand Committee investigated immediately and discovered 111 dead cattle and 146 live cattle in poor condition.
Wood and Mahon write in the joint statement, "Never had any of the Red Willow County authorities involved in this case been confronted with a situation of this magnitude."
The sheriff and county attorney determined that their immediate concern was for the live cattle, insuring that no more deaths occur.
The Brand Committee investigator explained how other counties have handled similar situations. The statement reads: "One option would have been to seize the herd, move them to a different location and provide food, water and any medical care and examinations. The sheriff's office was informed that the cost of feeding and keeping cattle as a general rule of thumb is $2 per day per head, which does not include the cost of any transportation or veterinary exams or treatments. A criminal prosecution was estimated to take four to 10 months to conclusion, excluding any possible appeals, during which time Red Willow County would be responsible for all of the costs associated with the live cattle until a final order of the court (regarding the final disposition) of the live cattle. As a separate issue, the proper disposal of the dead cattle would become the responsibility of Red Willow County if not performed by the owner."
Wood and Mahon continue: "Based upon what Red Willow County officials were told about the experiences of other counties in handling similar situations, the magnitude of the situation as outlined, and with the best interest of the live cattle in mind, an agreement was made with the owner of the cattle for him to divest himself of the live cattle and accomplish the proper disposal of the deceased cattle, which the owner has done, in exchange for no criminal prosecution."