Defense targets Roberts

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 26, 2007

WINTON – Defense attorneys in the trial involving two PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) employees set their sights on Jeremy Roberts here Thursday afternoon.

Roberts, a Detective Sgt. with the Ahoskie Police Department, is the lead investigator on the case that involves Adria Hinkle and Andrew Cook, two Virginia residents who each stand charged with 21 felony counts of animal cruelty as well as other alleged crimes.

On Wednesday, under direct questioning from District 6B Attorney Valerie Mitchell Asbell, Roberts provided critical testimony as the state built its case against Hinkle and Cook. The two were arrested by Roberts on June 15, 2005 after a stakeout at Ahoskie’s New Market Shopping Center ended with the two suspects allegedly tossing trash bags of dead animals into a private dumpster behind Piggly Wiggly Supermarket. The majority of those animals had been collected earlier that day by Hinkle and Cook from the Bertie County Animal Shelter.

The defense team of Jack Warmack (representing Hinkle) and Mark Edwards (Cook’s attorney) both cross-examined Roberts. Both defenders went searching for when Roberts had targeted PETA employees as the source of the dumpings.

Earlier, Roberts had testified that the dumping of dead animals into the Piggly Wiggly dumpster began in mid-May of 2005. Another two instances followed in the first part of June.

Warmack learned that Roberts’ investigation led him to believe by early June that the PETA employees were involved. Roberts went on to say that, at the outset of his investigation, this was a case of illegal dumping.

“Wouldn’t it have been reasonable at that point to contact PETA and let them know there may be a problem with PETA employees dumping dead animals,” Warmack asked.

Later in his cross examination, Warmack – making reference to the letters PETA on the side of Roberts’ case evidence notebooks – asked the detective if he believed this wasn’t a case against Hinkle or Cook, but rather against PETA itself.

“No sir, PETA did not dump these animals, the two defendants did,” Roberts answered.

Edwards, in his cross examination, asked Roberts if he was suspicious of PETA early in the investigation.

“I had a suspicion, but I needed to complete the investigation to confirm that suspicion,” Roberts replied.

Edwards turned his attention to the stakeout, saying that Roberts set it up because he and the other law enforcement officers involved believed that Hinkle and Cook would euthanize the animals they picked-up from the Bertie shelter on June 15 and dump the bodies in Ahoskie.

“That’s incorrect,” Roberts said. “The surveillance was set-up as a last resort. We were hoping your clients would drive right through Ahoskie and take the animals back to Norfolk in an attempt to adopt them out.”

“You didn’t know how the animals were being killed until you made the arrests,” Edwards asked. “Up until that point all you were doing was investigating an illegal dumping case.”

Edwards then went through a scenario where Roberts did nothing to prevent the killing of the animals in Bertie County in order to produce results in the Ahoskie stakeout.

“The well-being of those animals were in your client’s hands,” Roberts said.

“You knew dead animals were being dumped in Ahoskie for three prior weeks, in the same dumpster and (the animals) in the same type of (trash) bags,” Edwards responded. “Based on those three prior occurrences, you had suspicions these animals would be picked-up from the shelter and killed and you did not stop that.”