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January 23, 2013

Woman facing multiple animal cruelty charges

TERRE HAUTE — A former Terre Haute woman faces two counts of torturing animals and four counts of animal cruelty after police found six dead or dying animals in her abandoned residence.

Stacey L. Hopton, 40, appeared in Vigo Superior Court 3 on Tuesday where a July 9 trial date was set in her case.

The case stems from a Dec. 18 call to a residence in the 800 block of Crawford Street on an animal cruelty complaint. Police talked to a woman who said Hopton had been out of town for an extended period of time and had asked the woman to “check on her animals periodically.”

The woman said she found an unopened bag of dog food on the front porch of the residence on Dec. 18, and while looking through the windows of the residence saw only three of five dogs inside and detected an odor of decay coming from the home.

The woman told police she entered the home through an unlocked window and found one dead small tan chihuahua, a brown and tan pitbull that was near death, and three other starving dogs — a beagle, a shepherd-mix and a schnauzer, along with a black and white cat. The woman said she then notified police about the animals.

Police and code enforcement officers responded to the house and noticed the odor of decaying flesh, feces and urine, with animal feces on the floor and a broken glass bottle of DeKuyper’s Hot Damn on the floor. The officers described the conditions in the home as deplorable. They also saw a section of the wall inside the residence that had been chewed on by animals. An open toilet was dry, and officers were unable to find any sources of food, water or heat in the home.

The dead chihuahua was found lying in a laundry basket. The dying pitbull was extremely thin and had obvious skin problems and eyes matted closed from a liquid seeping from the sockets. The dog was taken to an area animal clinic for emergency treatment, but died the following day.

A necropsy performed on the pitbull showed that the animal weighed 21 pounds — 29 pounds lighter than the dog’s optimal weight — and that the body condition was skeletal. The dog’s stomach contained glass, metal and wood chips. The veterinarian determined that the dog died of malnutrition.

The two charges of torturing or mutilating a vertebrate animal are class-D felonies. The four counts of cruelty to animals are class-A misdemeanors.

The judge set a bond reduction hearing date of 10 a.m. Thursday.

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or lisa.trigg@tribstar.com. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.

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