Wesa-A-Geh-Ya owners charged with evidence tampering

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NEW: Wesa-A-Geh-Ya owners charged with evidence tampering

By Sarah Whitney

Last modified: Friday, September 19, 2008 3:47 PM CDT

The owners of Wesa-A-Geh-Ya and one board member for the organization have been charged in relation to an August tiger attack at the Warren County animal facility.

The Warren County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office has charged Kenneth Smith, 51, Sandra Smith, 58, and Roy Elder, 27, with one count each of tampering with physical evidence.

The charges state that each defendant either alone or with another or others concealed a tiger with the purpose being to impair its availability in a Warren County Sheriff’s Department’s investigation and thereby impaired and obstructed the prosecution of Kenneth Smith and/or Sandra Smith for the crime of animal abuse.

On the morning of Aug. 3, Warren County emergency personnel responded to a call at the facility, located on Highway A in northern Warren County, about an animal attack.

According to the probable cause statement, Elder, a Wesa-A-Geh-Ya board member, told Warren County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeff Catron that volunteer Jacob Barr, 26, had been attacked by a pit bull.

"Elder stated he was inside of the compound with Barr at the time of the attack and he witnessed a white in color pit bull grab Barr’s leg," according to the report. "Elder stated he then retrieved a handgun and struck the dog in the head, causing it to run away."

Sandra Smith then told the deputy and paramedics that she had injured her arm by striking the pit bull that was attacking Barr, according to the report.

After police left the animal facility, Barr — while being transported to the hospital — told his father he was attacked by a tiger, not a pit bull, according to the report. Barr would later lose his lower leg from the attack.

Police then returned to Wesa-A-Geh-Ya later that day to investigate the inconsistency.

Ken Smith said Sept. 12 that he told police the attack had been caused by a tiger from the beginning.

He told police he was not at the animal facility when the attack occurred, but that his wife, Sandra Smith, contacted him about the incident by phone, according to the report.

Kenneth Smith then returned to the facility, where he shot and killed the tiger, according to the report.

He then transported the tiger to a residence on Pin Oak Church Road, according to the report.

Police responded to that residence with Ken Smith and retrieved the tiger’s body.

Smith told police he removed the animal from Wesa-A-Geh-Ya grounds because the facility had been under a tremendous amount of scrutiny and did not want the information regarding the attack to become public.

Sandra Smith told police she lied about what animal attacked Barr for similar reasons, according to the report.

Elder said he provided false information about the attack because he did not want the Smiths to lose custody of their animals, according to the report.

If found guilty, each defendant could face a maximum of one year in jail and be fined up to $1,000.

Since the attack, the Smiths have closed the facility and given their 46 exotic animals to other facilities in Oklahoma, North Carolina, Missouri and Colorado.

Board President Chadlin "Rat Daddy" Andrews said Wednesday that he and three other board members, including Elder, planned to submit letters of resignation to the Smiths this week.

The move is not in response to the attack or to negate any of the board’s possible responsibility in the attack, Andrews said, but because of the Smiths’ decision to close.

For the cats,

Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue
an Educational Sanctuary home
to more than 100 big cats
12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL  33625
813.493.4564 fax 885.4457

http://www.BigCatRescue.org MakeADifference@BigCatRescue.org

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