News From Terre Haute, Indiana

March 20, 2013

Two arrested after search finds alleged cockfighting operation in Vigo, Sullivan counties

Arthur Foulkes
The Tribune-Star

PRAIRIE CREEK — Police uncovered what appeared to be a two-county cockfighting operation Tuesday in Sullivan and Vigo counties. They also uncovered a large quantity of marijuana at one residence where the birds were present, police said Tuesday night.

Sheriff’s deputies from Sullivan and Vigo counties, acting on a “citizen’s report,” searched a residence, including a barn, on Indiana 246 near Prairie Creek late Tuesday afternoon. Their search uncovered alleged signs of cockfighting and cockfighting paraphernalia, said Clark Cottom, chief deputy for the Vigo County Sheriff’s Department, who was at the scene.

Late Tuesday night, George Piker of the 3500 block of West Indiana 246, was arrested by sheriff's officers from Vigo and Sullivan counties, Cottom said. Piker faces 30 counts of possessing animals for fighting purposes and one count of possession of paraphernalia for animal fighting, Cottom said.

“When we arrived, we did see a large number of birds that were pinned up in cages … multiple animals in the same cage,” Cottom said. “And our humane officer felt what he believed was possibly animal abuse [was] going on.”

A search uncovered deceased birds, rooster fighting paraphernalia and alleged “signs of animal abuse,” Cottom said. More than 100 birds were estimated to be at the scene, he said.

“There are certain ways that they prepare the animals to engage in fighting,” Cottom told news reporters at the scene. “These animals show signs that they have been prepared for fighting.”

Information received during that search led police to a second residence, this one on the northeast edge of Sullivan, where city police secured that residence while deputies made their way there, Cottom said.

Once a warrant was obtained for the second residence, police discovered more birds, cockfighting paraphernalia and also a large amount of marijuana, Cottom said. The exact amount was unavailable Tuesday night, but it was believed to exceed the amount of marijuana necessary to bring felony charges, he said.

In connection with the second search, police arrested Jeffery McMahan, 54, of Sullivan. He was taken to the Sullivan County jail.

Owning animals for fighting purposes is a class-D felony under Indiana law. Owning animal fighting paraphernalia is a class-A misdemeanor.

Indiana State Department of Health officials were also involved Tuesday. They were there to make sure the surviving animals receive proper care, Cottom said.

Cottom said police received information about the possible animal cruelty case early Tuesday afternoon. The investigation was a joint effort of the Vigo and Sullivan county sheriff’s departments and also prosecutor’s offices in both counties. The Sullivan city police also assisted in the case, he said.

“All of the agencies worked together very, very well,” Cottom said late Tuesday.

The Humane Society of the United States defines cockfighting as a bloodsport in which birds are placed in a ring to fight to the death as people place bets on the outcome.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or