ST. GEORGE – Two New Harmony residents pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges of animal cruelty originating from the discovery of three dead horses that reportedly died of starvation. A fourth horse was found alive, yet was malnourished and injured.
John Trinity and Christina Silvers appeared in Washington County Justice Court in St. George Tuesday afternoon. Trinity pleaded guilty to two class B misdemeanors for animal cruelty, while Silvers pleaded guilty to a single class B misdemeanor for animal cruelty.
A third defendant, Kelton L. Prisbrey, was set to appear in court that morning for a pretrial hearing but was rescheduled due to his lawyer being ill.
Trinity, Silvers and Prisbrey originally faced four class B misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty, along with an infraction for not burying a dead livestock animal.
The extra charges were dropped for Trinity and Silvers as part of a plea deal reached between the two and the Washington County Attorney’s Office. The charges currently remain unchanged for Prisbrey.
The charges, which were reported to be potentially felony-level early on, stem from the Feb. 18 arrests of the three after New Harmony residents reported seeing a dead horse on Prisbrey’s property that had not been buried. Washington County Sheriff’s deputies did not push the matter at the time since there was no way of telling how long the horse may have been dead. The owner or owners of the dead animal would legally have three days to bury the body or dispose of it, according to Washington County code.
Deputies returned to the area a few days later for an unrelated incident and found the horse still hadn’t been buried. An investigation spurred by the death of the first horse discovered two other horses that had died, although those bodies had been buried.
A 2-year-old colt that was in an emaciated state was also found and taken to the Dust Devil Ranch Sanctuary for Horses in Cedar City for care.
Deputy Washington County Attorney Rachael Beckstrom told the court that deputies met with Trinity, who was a renter on the property, and he told them he had denied food, water and shelter to the horses.
A reason given for this was due to the horses’ owners lacking the sufficient funds to properly provide for the horses.
During the hearing, Trinity, who represented himself, claimed Prisbrey had misrepresented himself as the property owner and was actually a renter like himself and Silvers.
“Every time we went to build shelter or get food for the horse, he said, ‘No, you can’t do that. I’ll get the food for the horse,’” Trinity said, adding that the unburied horse was Prisbrey’s and not his or Silvers’ property.
Silvers said her choices in relation to the accused animal abuse was a result of her allowing someone to control the choices she made related to the matter. However, unlike Trinity, she did not explicitly name Prisbrey as the cause.
“It’s very painful,” Silvers said with emotion in her voice after a moment of silence. “I don’t deny what happened. This only mistake I made is allowing someone to have that much control over what I’ve done.”
Silvers said she loved her horse, the 2-year-old colt that had been taken to the horse sanctuary, and that is why she was surrendering him so he could get the proper care she couldn’t provide.
In additional to being malnourished, the horse, named “Chance” by the staff at the Dust Devil Ranch, had a wound on his right back hoof. Part of the hoof was discovered to be broken and abscessed.
The horse may have had to deal with the wound for many months, said Ginger Grimes, the founder of the nonprofit Dust Devil Ranch Sanctuary for Horses.
The horse’s injury had been an accident, Silvers said, and she had thought it was a sprain. “I didn’t know he had abscessed,” she said.
Judge Douglas Whitlock asked Grimes about the horse’s present condition.
“His prognosis isn’t good,” Grimes said, “but we’re keeping him comfortable right now.”
Due to the injured foot, Chance is standing more on his left foot, which is causing other medical complications, Grimes said. She also mentioned that the horse had a seizure at one point.
Surgery for Chance could cost between $5,000 and $12,000, Grimes said. The only other option is to euthanize him. However, before either happens, a recent round of medical examinations will be studied and reviewed in order to determine what the best course of action will be.
Trinity and Silvers were sentenced to serve 90 days in jail, yet had their terms suspended and were placed on 12 months bench probation.
Trinity was credited for time served in jail following the original arrest related to the animal cruelty incident. Each day – seven in all – was applied in the amount of $50 to an overall fine he was ordered to pay, dropping a possible $680 fine to $330.
Silvers was ordered to pay a $340 fine, as well as sign ownership of her horse over to the Dust Devil Ranch Sanctuary for Horses.
The sanctuary is waiving restitution fees connected with the Chance’s care as part of the deal to have him surrendered to the facility.
“I was happy with the outcome that she surrendered the horse to us for he could get the care he so desperately deserves,” Grimes said. In contrast, she said she wished the sentences for Trinity and Silvers had been stronger.
As for statements made in the courtroom pointing the finger at Prisbrey, Beckstrom said his case is still under investigation by authorities and declined to comment further on the subject.
Prisbrey ‘s next court appearance is set for May 30.
- Those who wish to make a donation toward the cost of Chance’s needed surgery can do so on the Devil Devil Ranch Sanctuary for Horses website.
Ed. note: When making charitable contributions it is advisable to consult with professionals for tax advice and investment risks.
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