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PETA camera may hold clues

AHOSKIE – Will the images found on a digital camera hold any clues?

On Monday, Ahoskie Police Chief Troy Fitzhugh reported that a warrant had been executed to retrieve the images recorded on a digital camera allegedly used by the two PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) workers arrested June 15 in Ahoskie.

Fitzhugh said the digital camera was found in the van in which Andrew Benjamin Cook, 24, of 504 Tree Top Street, Virginia Beach, Va. and Adria Joy Hinkle, 27, of 1602 Claremont Ave., Norfolk, Va. were operating at the time of their arrests. The camera was held for evidence, but a warrant was needed to retrieve the photographic images.

&uot;The photos will be used as evidence during the course of the ongoing investigation,&uot; Fitzhugh said.

Meanwhile, other aspects of the investigation are ongoing.

Fitzhugh said his investigators were waiting for the results from the SBI lab in Raleigh concerning several items found in a tackle box in the van. He added that the cause of death of the animals had yet to be determined. Those results are pending from another state lab.

&uot;All we do know and can release to the media at this time are the following facts in the case,&uot; Fitzhugh said. &uot;(1) These animals were alive when they were picked up on June 15 from the Bertie County Animal Shelter. (2) The incident involving the dumping of these animals occurred at 5 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon, June 15. There have been some reports I’ve seen that said this incident occurred at night. (3) We do know at the time of the arrest that a female was operating the van and a male was a passenger.&uot;

Hinkle and Cook each face 31 felony counts each of animal cruelty and eight misdemeanor counts each of illegal disposal of dead animals. An additional charge of illegal trespassing was later filed against both individuals.

They each posted their $35,500 secured bonds and now face a July 19 appearance in Hertford County District Court.

The arrests came after law enforcement officials with the Ahoskie Police and Bertie County Sheriff’s Office on June 15 were able to observe a white panel van drive next to the commercial dumpster located behind Piggly Wiggly in Newmarket Shopping Center. A person in the van tossed several dark-colored bags in the dumpster before the vehicle attempted to pull away.

At that time, a traffic stop was initiated on the van – a vehicle registered to PETA and occupied by Cook and Hinkle.

The bags located in the dumpster contained 18 dead dogs, including one bag containing seven puppies. An additional 13 dead dogs were found in the van.

PETA has suspended Hinkle in lieu of their investigation. Cook remains actively employed with the Norfolk, Va. based organization.