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Thursday, May 5, 2016

621 more animal cruelty charges filed against Thomas

Friday, March 5, 2010

Bedford County Deputy Rodney Guinn took John Darron Thomas into custody Thursday after Circuit Court Judge Lee Russell revoked his bond following a drug screening. Thomas now faces an additional 621 counts of animal cruelty.
(T-G Photo by Brian Mosely) [Order this photo]
A member of the state's agriculture crime unit says it's the worse case of animal abuse he's ever seen.

John Darron Thomas now faces an additional 621 counts of animal cruelty after investigators completed their tally of dead and starved cattle discovered last month.

Meanwhile, Thomas' bond was revoked Thursday after a court-ordered drug test revealed the presence of OxyContin.

Thomas now faces a total of 722 counts of animal cruelty, according to Detective Todd Hammond of Bedford County Sheriff's Department.

He was originally charged with 102 counts of animal cruelty, and the new charges include the "dead, alive, starving and the ones that had to be put down because the vet determined their condition to be non-recoverable," Hammond explained.

Also, 25 cows had to be destroyed, Hammond said, "because they couldn't even stand up," and an additional 36 head were found dead on the Thomas property during the search of the land. Another 23 cows died after they were removed from the property.

A total of 555 live cows were removed from Thomas' land, as well as 20 burros, and all of those animals were starved, Hammond said.

"Every one of them [was] so hungry, there wasn't enough feed to go around," the detective explained. "Even after we were feeding them roll after roll (of hay), they were all over it."

Hammond explained that the charges against Thomas were reduced to animal cruelty instead of aggravated animal cruelty, which applies to dogs and cat, but not livestock.

"This is probably the largest case of animal abuse in the state," Hammond guessed.

Worst he's seen

Mike Whaley of the Tennessee Agricultural Crime Unit agreed with Hammond, saying this is the worst case he's ever seen in his career.

Whaley's job is checking into farm crimes like wildfire arson, livestock theft and criminal activities on state forest lands, as well as enforcing the rules relating to the import of animals and animal diseases. He has been with the crime unit for eight years and the Department of Agriculture for 24 years.

"As long as I've been doing this, it's the worst one I've ever seen," Whaley stated.

He also said he's sure that the case involves the most warrants he's ever written for not properly disposing of animal remains, which now totals 138 counts.

Also, Whaley noted that he is still finding remains on the Thomas property, saying that a total of 15 bone piles have been discovered.

Even though those cattle may have died years ago, the remains were still not properly disposed of and Thomas could face additional state charges as a result, Whaley explained.

Whaley's jurisdiction with the agriculture crime unit covers Bedford, Coffee, Franklin, Giles, Grundy, Lawrence, Lincoln, Maury, Marshall, Moore and Warren County.

Bond revoked

On Thursday, Thomas appeared before Circuit Court Judge Lee Russell to have a disposition date set for a number of other charges that he was indicted for by the Bedford County grand jury last month.

He has been charged with two counts of DUI, three counts of animals running at large, failure to appear, theft under $500 for allegedly shoplifting from Walmart and theft over $10,000 related to the alleged theft of lumber.

Russell set a date of April 1 for Thomas to make a plea or have a trial date set on the charges. But Russell then ordered Thomas to surrender his driver's license since he is facing two DUI counts.

Thomas' attorney, Michael Flanagan of Nashville, made a motion for a hearing on surrendering the license, which has been set for March 19.

However, Russell then stated that Thomas appeared to be "under the influence" in the courtroom and ordered him to take a drug test consisting of a urine sample.

The court took a brief recess and when the proceeding continued, probation officer Alex Eskew testified that a field test of the sample revealed two medications that Thomas had prescriptions for.

But the drug test also revealed the presence of OxyContin, a pain killer which Thomas did not have a prescription for, and as a result, Judge Russell revoked his $1,079,500 bond.

Thomas was taken into custody and Flanagan requested that a blood test be performed, which was done right after Thomas left the courthouse.

Thomas also faces counts of animal cruelty and animals running at large in Coffee County and has a court date of April 6 set in that case.

Deputies in that county had been responding to a number of reports of cattle running at large since November 2009 and that carcasses were recently disposed of by Griffin Industries.

Thomas makes claims

Thomas has claimed that his cows in Bedford County were shot after he filed a $6 million federal lawsuit against the county, the Sheriff's Department, Sheriff Randall Boyce and Deputies Ben Burris, Kent Jacobs and Kevin Roddy.

He claims that he has been pulled over approximately 20 times with no convictions and that deputies have harassed and kidnapped him.

The federal suit filed by Thomas claims that the county officers have conspired to arrest him and caused false imprisonment for retribution for his interfering with the relationship of Jacobs and his girlfriend.

Thomas repeatedly denied last month that his cows had been starved, even when asked about the results of autopsies Thomas himself requested for the cattle, which stated the cows were severely dehydrated and emaciated.