Man charged with animal neglect

By John Estridge, Editor

A western Franklin County man has been charged with a felony and three misdemeanors concerning the disposal of dead animals and the condition of live ones.

According to documents in the Franklin County Clerk's office, Darrell W. Miracle, 53, was recently charged with Disposal of animals that have died, as a class D felony; two counts of Abandonment or neglect of a vertebrate animal, as class A misdemeanors; and Littering, as a class B misdemeanor.

According to an Incident Report filed by Indiana Conservation Officer Grahm Selm, contact with the Miracle property on Sanes Creek Road in western Franklin County was initiated by a call from one of Miracle's neighbors. That neighbor contacted the Franklin County Communications Center in Brookville on April 18.

The neighbor said there was an offensive odor coming from the Miracle property, and the odor was emanating from dead animals. He also said there was a dead cow in a creek that runs near the property line.

Selm and fellow CO Travis Stewart were dispatched to the neighbor's house. First, Selm and Stewart went to the property in question and observed from the road a dead cow and two dead goats. They also found an offensive odor from the property while they remained on the road.

Another neighbor was interviewed by Selm and said much of the same things as the first neighbor. Both said this is an ongoing problem with Miracle.

Selm and Stewart made an inspection of the Miracle property without entering it and found 36 dead animals. Among the types of animals were cows, goats, a donkey and a turkey. The carcasses were all over the property with two piles of dead animals toward the back of the property. Selm also observed piles of clean bones that he did not factor in to the count of dead animals. Twenty-five live animals were also observed. These were cows, horses, donkeys and turkeys.

After seeing the property, Selm contacted Robyn Smith, a livestock specialist with the Indiana State Board of Animal Health, to assist in the investigation.

The next day Smith went with Selm and CO Brandon Shoults to the landowners, Basil and Madena Good. Apparently, the Goods are selling the property in question on contract to Miracle. Recently, some cows pushed a fence down between the Miracle and Goods properties. Madena said the cows were hungry and were looking for food.

They also said Miracle lives with his mother on U.S. 52.

As with the other neighbors, the Goods said dead animals on the Miracle property are an ongoing problem.

After talking with the Goods, the trio went back to the Miracle property for additional observation and found another dead animal, a goat, bringing the total to 37. Smith then contacted a veterinarian with the State Board of Health, Dr. Jim Hollis, and scheduled an appointment with Hollis to come to the property and observe the live animals.

On April 20, Smith and Selm contacted Miracle at his residence. He said he and his son buy and sell livestock. He said the reason the cows died is they are Brahma cattle, and that type of cattle did not do well in a Hoosier winter. Also, goats die for no apparent reason. Miracle said he feeds his livestock daily, and they get water from the creek. He said this is the first time he had to deal with dead animals.

Answering questions, Miracle said he believed there were about 10 dead animals on his property, and no dead animals were in a creek. The reason he did not dispose of the dead animals is because the ground was not dry enough.

Selm informed Miracle there is a 24-hour time period by law in which to deal with a dead animal. Miracle said he was unaware of the law. At that point, Smith explained the law and the options available for dealing with dead animals.

Miracle did not have documentation on where the animals were bought but told Selm and Smith orally where they were purchased.

When confronted with the fact Selm had viewed a dead cow in the creek, Miracle admitted to knowing there was a dead cow in the creek.

According to Miracle, he did not have a problem with a veterinarian coming onto the property and checking on the animals. Miracle said he does not use a local veterinarian. Instead, he purchases the medicine himself and administers it.

On April 25, Hollis went to the property and checked on the live animals. He gave individual scores to the horses, donkeys and ponies. He gave average scores for the two different types of cattle species. His report showed there were health issues with some of the animals. The veterinarian recommended the animals be placed under someone else's care and be checked in 30 days for improvement.

Charges were filed by the Franklin County Prosecutor's Office on May 22.

If convicted of a class D felony, Miracle could receive a sentence ranging from six months to three years in prison. A class A misdemeanor conviction brings a sentence of up to one year in the Franklin County Security Center. A class B misdemeanor conviction has a sentencing range of up to 180 days in the FCSC.