Lindgren awaiting sentencing following guilty verdict

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF & BRENDA CONYERS
Sentencing for Karole Lindgren, found guilty last Tuesday in district court of two misdemeanor counts of cruelty to animals by a six-member jury, is set for Dec. 5.


Lindgren could receive up to one year in the county jail and several thousand dollars in fines for her part in endangering the health of dozens of dogs and horses on the family farm two miles west of Marion.


She will have up to 10 days following sentencing to decide whether to appeal the case.


About 144 dogs and 70 horses were removed from the farm March 12 by the Kansas Animal Health Department (KAHD) with the support of law-enforcement officers from the Marion County Sheriff’s Office and the Kansas Highway Patrol.


Because of potentially conflicting defenses, Lindgren was tried separately from the other three family members charged in the case: her husband, Ray; daughter, Kena; and son, Ryan. The date of their joint trial has not been set after a continuance was granted last week.


The trial, originally scheduled for only two days, began Thursday morning with the selection of six jurors, the number required in a misdemeanor case.


Keith Collett, assistant county attorney, opened the state’s case by accusing Lindgren in his opening argument of not providing adequate food, water, protection, exercise and other care to the majority of the dogs and horses kept on the family farm.


He focused first on the treatment of the Australian Shepherd dogs kept on the property.


Key to Collett’s case was a 20-minute video, shown early in the trial and taken by members of the KAHD staff on March 12 while the situation was being assessed and the animals were being removed from the premises.


The video, which brought tears to the eyes of several members of the gallery, showed numerous Australian Shepherds without food or water and standing inches deep in feces and urine, often in overcrowded pens or undersized crates. Dog carcasses were found in some pens with indications that the dead dogs had been cannibalized.


Patricia Harrington of the KAHD, who assisted with the videotaping on the scene, described the conditions depicted on the video to the jurors. She said at one point the overwhelming stench of ammonia among dogs crowded into a large metal shed “was the worst thing I ever smelled.”


Keith D. Hoffman, the court-appointed attorney for Lindgren, sought to block the showing of the video, claiming it was obtained as the result of an illegal search. Judge Michael Powers overruled the objection, citing an earlier hearing where a defense motion to suppress the evidence was denied.


Laying the groundwork for a possible appeal, Hoffman made several similar objections when other pieces of evidence, such as additional videotapes and photographs, were submitted to the court. On each occasion, his objection was overruled.


Also called as key witnesses for the state from the KAHD were Deborah Stevia and Carman Simon, who corroborated the evidence portrayed in the video and photographs.


During her testimony, Simon, while asked about observing the Lindgren farm on Feb. 17, referred to a personal datebook she had brought with her to the stand. Hoffman claimed the datebook had not been made available to him. Judge Powers overruled a motion by Hoffman for an immediate mistrial, but did say the situation was a technical violation of discovery rules and struck Simon’s testimony about the Feb. 17 incident.


Also testifying for the case were a pair of veterinarians, Paul Grosdidier of the KAHD and Christopher Hesse. Grosdidier oversaw the transport of five dog carcasses and Hesse performed autopsies on two of them. Hesse testified that cannabalism was indicated in two of the dogs, and the other dogs were too badly decomposed to reach a clear conclusion.


Grosdidier also testified about “atrocious” sanitation under which the dogs lived.


When cross-examining the state’s witnesses, Hoffman raised at least two arguments: some of the dogs under Lindgren’s care actually were in good condition, some of the injuries on the dogs could have been caused by other factors, and some of the dogs may have appeared dehydrated and hungry because of the length of time the intervention endured.


Friday the jurors heard from Amy Wolf, who works in the Animal Health Center in Marion, and Jessica Laurin, the veterinarian at the center.


Wolf testified she counted the horses and dogs as they were loaded and taken away from the Lindgren property and that she helped transport two dogs to the Animal Health Center. The two dogs were in “horriffic” condition she said, with hair so matted with fecal matter that the dogs had to be shaved in spots in addition to being bathed.


Laurin testified that one of the dogs had a penis that could not be drawn back into the sheath because of injury and extreme irritation.


Having focused on the condition of dogs during the first full day of the trial and into the second day, Collett then turned the attention of jurors to the condition of the horses.


Key witnesses were Don Rosine and Jeff Rosine, both of the Peabody area, who helped transport some of the Lindgren horses to Carl Peterson’s ranch near Marion. The Rosines testified that some of the animals were “in pretty good shape,” but around a dozen suffered from “snowshoe hooves” (extended growth) and many others appeared thin and dehydrated.


Tammy Yoder, a horse manager from Peabody, offered similar testimony about the three horses that came into her care. One could not stand on its own for two or three weeks, she said, and had suffered stunted growth.


Marion County Deputy Jeff Soyez testified he helped administer the search on March 12 and described conditions he observed in regard to the horses. He said one horse had to be euthanized on site and that he found the carcasses of four other horses around the Lindgren property.


When the trial resumed Monday, the state showed videotapes of the horses and their living conditions. Laurin described scenes that depicted conditions so muddy that at least one horse was stuck and could not approach food or water, apparently for several days.


She also described the “snowshoe” hooves she observed and how they were often the result of foundering, a condition caused by poor nutrition.


Under cross-examination, Laurin said some of the horses were in decent condition and that cases of foundering occur with other managers of horses and for reasons other than mistreatment.


But under Collett’s redirect, Laurin said several of the horses under the Lindgrens’ care suffered acute foundering.


Hoffman began his defense on Monday by calling Carl Peterson to the stand. Peterson, a seasoned horse buyer and seller, said he did not feel the horses had been subject to cruel treatment.


Under cross-examination by Collett, Peterson did say he felt the horses had been mismanaged, however.


Hoffman’s second witness was Carroll Shields of Lincolnville, a farmer who grows and sells hay. Shields testified he had sold hay to the Lindgrens and was aware of several other people who had done so.


Hoffman also called Perry Gutsch, branch manager of the farmers’ cooperative in Lincolnville, who testified the Lindgren family had purchase 40-pound bags of high-quality dog food from him.


Mary McFadden testified the Lindgrens had purchased hay from her, too.


Earl Wood, a veterinarian from Marion, was called to refute previous testimony that one of the Lindgren colts was improperly treated when its leg was put into a cast.


The colt was later euthanized.


Lyle Hanshu, a rancher from Lost Springs, said he had taken three mares to the Lindgrens to be bred by one of their paint stallions. He said he saw nothing wrong with the condition of any of the horses at that time.


He also said he was on the Lindgren farm March 12 and did not see anything wrong then either.


As the final piece of the defense, Lindgren testified on her own behalf. She claimed she took proper care of her animals and that some of the evidence submitted during the trial was the result of specific actions by state officials to make her look bad.


In his closing arguments, Hoffman said the Lindgrens had been set up by the state and that the intervention was pre-planned, evidenced by all the officials and law-enforcement personnel who showed up on the scene March 12. He asked for justice for the family.


Collett, meanwhile, summarized the evidence the jury had seen on the videotapes and photographs and heard through witnesses. He asked for justice for the animals.


The jury deliberated a little more than an hour before reaching a guilty verdict.

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