Three charged in local donkey shootings
By Elaine Forman
Two men and one boy, all of Miles City, are facing multiple felony charges in the April shooting deaths of five donkeys and the shooting of a sixth donkey that survived.
Corey Knippel, 18, and James Cranford, 19, are in the Custer County Jail. (Deleted) is not in jail because he is a minor. He will turn 18 next month.
Knippel has been in jail since May on other charges. Cranford was arrested Friday, according to Custer County Sheriff Tony Harbaugh.
Knippel was 17 at the time of the shooting, so he and (Deleted)are being charged in Youth Court. Each is named as "a delinquent youth and a serious juvenile offender" in the court records.
Cranford is charged as an adult in District Court.
The six donkeys belonging to Bonnie and Garry Loomis were shot in a field on or about April 19 along Sheffield Road. Four were found dead April 20, and a fifth one died the following day. One had recently given birth to a filly, and another was about to give birth.
All three males are charged with six felony counts of aggravated animal cruelty by accountability for allegedly shooting the animals, and six counts of criminal mischief by accountability for allegedly killing or injuring the animals.
In District Court, the maximum penalty of aggravated animal cruelty by accountability is two years in prison and a $2,500 fine. Criminal mischief by accountability can bring 10 years in prison and a $50,000 fine.
The state has requested the court designate the case as "an extended jurisdiction juvenile prosecution," which would carry the same penalties as in District Court.
In Youth Court, the maximum penalty is commitment to the Department of Corrections until the age of 18, and if the case is transferred to District Court, supervision to the adult division of the Department of Corrections until 25 years old.
Cranford also is charged with a misdemeanor count of obstructing a peace officer for allegedly lying to Undersheriff Pat Roos during the investigation.
Obstructing can bring the maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $500 fine.
Harbaugh said they received "a lot of calls" and "a lot of Crimestoppers" tips including "one that was critical." He wants to thank all those who called.
Shortly after the incident, donations to the Crimestoppers fund for the donkey case were just under $3,800. Miles City Police Sgt. Mark Reddick could not be reached by presstime for a current figure, or to comment any whether any of the fund will be distributed.
The donkey investigation was aided by the livestock inspectors and by the Miles City Police Department, both of whom "lent us a big hand" in the investigation, Harbaugh said.
"There were a lot of man hours and diligent police work that went into this. The investigation was lengthy," he said.
He added that the investigation is ongoing.