Jail Time, Psychiatric Treatment Urged in Goat-Torture Case

PETA Calls For Vigorous Prosecution After Video Shows Goats Terrorized, Beaten, and Hacked Apart

For Immediate Release:
August 13, 2020

Megan Wiltsie 202-483-7382

Spotsylvania County, Va.

Today, PETA sent an urgent letter to Spotsylvania County Commonwealth Attorney Travis Bird asking that his office vigorously prosecute a felony cruelty-to-animals case stemming from a June 18 incident in which three men and a woman tortured two goats to death. Video of the incident shows them using dogs, a spiked bat, and a machete to terrorize and mutilate the goats, whose remains they reportedly attempted to conceal from law enforcement.

“If these accusations are true, these three men and this woman spent more than 20 minutes torturing these animals as if it were some kind of sadistic game,” says PETA Senior Director Stephanie Bell. “If they are convicted, PETA asks that they get jail time, psychiatric counseling, and a ban on contact with animals.”

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to abuse in any way”—opposes speciesism, which is a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit PETA.org.

PETA’s letter to Bird follows.

August 13, 2020
The Honorable Travis Bird
Spotsylvania County Commonwealth’s Attorney

Dear Mr. Bird,

Greetings from PETA. This letter concerns a heinous case currently with your office reportedly involving Andrew Haefele, Donald Compton, and Halie Morgan (all of Spotsylvania) and Charles E. McKinney (of Maurertown). The four reportedly face felony charges—including maiming an animal, conspiracy to maim an animal, cruelty to animals, and giving false information to law enforcement—stemming from an alleged June 18 incident during which two goats reportedly no longer wanted by their owner (Halie Morgan) were viciously tortured during a prolonged and gruesome attack. According to news sources, authorities report that video footage recovered from Compton’s phone depicts two large dogs being encouraged to maul and chase the terrified goats, who are then repeatedly pummeled with a spiked bat as they run past. A machete is allegedly introduced at some point. According to witnesses, the horrific attack lasted over 20 agonizing minutes. Reportedly, the defendants lied to investigators about the animals’ whereabouts when questioned, but deputies apparently found their mutilated remains hidden under debris on the property.

As you likely know, mental health professionals and top law-enforcement officials consider animal abuse to be a red flag. The American Psychiatric Association identifies cruelty to animals as one of the diagnostic criteria for conduct disorders, and the FBI uses reports of such crimes in analyzing the threat potential of suspected and known criminals and has recently categorized cruelty to animals alongside arson and homicide in its national felony crimes database. The link between animal abuse and interpersonal violence is undeniable, and the safety of the community is better secured by vigorous prosecution of these types of cases.

If there is a conviction, we would respectfully request that sentencing include incarceration as well as psychiatric intervention. Because there is a high rate of recidivism among animal abusers, we would also ask that sentencing include a prohibition on owning and having contact with animals (a common provision in such cases) for as long as possible.

Thank you for your time and consideration as well as for the difficult work that you do.


Kristin Rickman
Emergency Response Division Manager
Cruelty Investigations Department
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