Aug 16 2013- According to a press release sent out by the Ellis County and District Attorney, the jury sentenced Michelle Lorraine Lehman, 41, of Dallas, to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine for each of the nine counts, a maximum sentence.
The day before she was sentenced, jury deliberated for two hours and reviewed the photographic evidence depicting the scene where 82 animals were seized by authorities, many of which were in extremely malnourished condition.
During the five-day trial, prosecutors presented evidence that Lehman leased an old barn on Ovilla Road in Ellis County, where she confined 48 dogs and 34 cats without adequate food, water, shelter or care. The investigation that ensued revealed that Lehman physically abused the animals, tethered dogs without access to water, enclosed an unadoptable feral cat population, and even isolated unruly animals by tethering them to a post without food or water until they died. She would then bury the dead animals behind the barn.
Experts who testified for the State told the jury that the animals were flea infested, had various forms of diseases, and were not maintained in a state of good health. Many of the animals had open wounds which were embedded with fleas and parasites, and all of the animals showed signs of malnourishment and lack of proper care.
During trial, Lehman testified that she would feed the dogs pizza she was given by a friend who worked at a local restaurant. The evidence showed, however, that the “pizza” was just leftover crusts mixed with plastic straws, napkins, and other trash that she would dump on the dirt floor of the barn among the urine and bloody stools of various animals.
Prosecutors asked the jury to find Lehman guilty of nine counts of animal cruelty and to sentence her to the maximum one year in jail. In closing argument, Assistant County & District Attorney Seth McCloskey reminded the jury that 67 of the 82 animals found in Lehman’s care had to be euthanized due to the severity of their conditions, and he told the jury that they should consider what the life of each animal was worth and sentence her accordingly. After the trial McCloskey said, “Lehman was punished to the fullest extent of the law. My office is grateful for the jury’s verdict and sentence, which shows they place tremendous importance on the lives of those animals. We also want to thank the Waxahachie Animal Control officers for their hard work in this case.”