Nurse questions trial delay

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 30, 2006

SOUTHERN PINES – What does this golfing resort in Moore County have in common with Ahoskie?

William Craig.

Craig, a male nurse and a self-confessed animal lover, has closely followed the case of the two PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) workers arrested in Ahoskie last June on animal cruelty charges.

On Oct. 31, a Hertford County Grand Jury formally indicted Andrew Benjamin Cook, 24, of Virginia Beach, Va. and Adria Joy Hinkle, 27, of Norfolk, Va. on 22 felony counts each of cruelty to animals as well as three counts each of obtaining property by false pretense. Those charges stemmed from their June 15, 2005 arrest in Ahoskie after allegedly euthanizing and disposing of dead animals in a dumpster.

However, following several continuances granted to defense lawyers, the case has yet to go to trial.

“I do not understand how this trial has been delayed for almost a year now and the ‘out of sight out of mind’ theory seems very possible for the delay,” Craig said. “I am very ill and have vested much time in attempting to keep this issue in the public eye anyway I can. I don’t want to die before these two are brought to justice.”

On June 21 of last year, Craig launched a petition campaign aimed at animal abuse cases. To date, that online petition has collected over 1,500 signatures. A similar petition, this one in hardcopy form, has over 1,000 signatures, according to Craig.

Those petitions, which have been presented to North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, read as follows:

“We the undersigned express our concerns for the cruel demise and illegal dumping of 31 dead cats and dogs in Ahoskie NC.

Those who committed this offense have complete disregard for the health issue of the residents in the community as well as the dignity due any animal.

We further request that the euthanasia of these animals be examined as to legality of the action.

We question the possession of Veterinary drugs that NC law requires only be dispensed by a licensed Veterinary physician.

We request the maximum penalty for the accused if found guilty regardless of the organization that employed them. We ask that the Attorney General appoint an investigator to review with PETA officials the organizational polices regarding euthanasia in North Carolina, who may possess the drugs and legal disposal of animals.

We ask that your office require as a standard a written report of all animals euthanized in NC and proof of proper disposal.”

And what does Craig hope to gain from this effort.

“To ensure this issue in Ahoskie doesn’t die for lack of attention,” he answered. “In my opinion with the illegal euthanasia of these 28 dogs and three cats and the ensuing illegal dumping of those same animals there in Ahoskie, I strongly feel PETA has a total disregard for your community,” Craig said.

He continued, “I also feel they had total disregard for the health issues…tossing dead animals in a dumpster behind a grocery store where food products are delivered daily for public consumption. There, flies and vermin were sure to gather at that dumpster, attracted by the dead animals.”

Craig added he also questioned PETA’s internal practices, considering the two arrested employees were able to obtain, transport and administer drugs that, by North Carolina law, are restricted to licensed veterinarians.

“As a nurse, we have very stringent rules and regulations regarding checking out and administering drugs,” he noted. “There was no apparent control in this particular case.”

Craig said the Ahoskie case stirs bad memories for him and his wife.

“Back in the 80’s, my wife and I approached a couple about letting us adopt their St. Bernard puppy that was obviously being abused,” he recalled. “We offered them a $1,000 for the pup, but they refused. A short time later, my wife discovered the pup, now a 70-pound animal, dead in a dumpster, shot in the head.”

Craig said the dog’s owners were later charged with animal cruelty, but in his words, “they were only given a slap on the wrist in court.”

“I don’t want to see the same thing happen in Ahoskie,” Craig concluded. “Granted, PETA has some good programs when it comes to animals. But this case is different, much different. Euthanasia should not be used to control overpopulation of animals. There are great spay and neuter programs for that. We can’t sit still while one particular group thinks they have the final say-so in if an animal lives or dies. No animal deserves being picked up, killed in a van and thrown in the garbage by anyone or any organization.”

Hinkle and Cook were arrested by the Ahoskie Police Department late in the afternoon of June 15, 2005 after law enforcement officials, on a stake-out, observed a white van in which the two were operating stop in an area located behind Piggly Wiggly in Ahoskie’s Newmarket Shopping Center and toss several black bags in a commercial dumpster.

At that time, a traffic stop was initiated on the van, a vehicle registered to PETA.

The bags located in the dumpster contained 18 dead dogs, including one bag containing seven puppies. An additional 13 dead animals, including a mother cat and her two kittens, were found in the van.

Additionally, the van contained a tackle box filled with syringes and vials of liquid substances. Ahoskie Police Detective Sgt. Jeremy Roberts, the lead investigator on the case, sent the items to the SBI Crime Lab. There it was confirmed the vials contained Ketamine and Pentobarbital. According to Roberts, both are Schedule III drugs, each regulated by the Drug Enforcement Agency and are only available for purchase by a licensed veterinarian.

Dr. Cheryl Powell of the Powellsville Pet Clinic said Ketamine is primarily used as an aesthetic drug to sedate animals. She said the Pentobarbital was the sedative given to animals to euthanize them.

The majority of the animals discovered on June 15 were collected the same day by Cook and Hinkle from the Bertie County Animal Shelter, as confirmed by Bertie Animal Control Officer Barry Anderson. An autopsy performed later on one of those dogs revealed the animal was in good health prior to its death.

The mother cat and two kittens were pick-up from Ahoskie Animal Hospital. There, Dr. Pat Proctor said it was to his understanding the cats would be placed up for adoption.