Woman found guilty in Carl the Rooster’s death
OCEAN SPRINGS, Miss. (WLOX) - A Jones County woman accused of killing a beloved rooster in Ocean Springs was found guilty of misdemeanor animal cruelty Wednesday. Sentencing for Kendra Shaffer was postponed to a later date at the prosecutor’s request.
Shaffer appeared in Ocean Springs Municipal Court in front of Judge Calvin Taylor six months after Carl the Rooster was found dead in Biloxi.
Shaffer’s attorney Thomas Alonzo had filed a motion for a change of venue for the trial, but it was denied.
City prosecutor Douglas Tynes called Parker Bourque, who works in the criminal investigation division of Ocean Springs Police, as his first witness to give a timeline of the events of the investigation.
Bourque said the department had received a tip of a the local rooster missing from downtown and later received another tip that a group of people had picked him up and later disposed of Carl the Rooster.
Through the course of the investigation, Bourque found surveillance videos of the events on the night of April 23 into the morning of April 24 and developed a suspect, which brought him to the Jones County Sheriff’s Office. Shaffer had worked as a Jones County juvenile corrections officer but was fired from her position when she was issued the misdemeanor citation.
Bourque told the court the chief deputy of the Jones County Sheriff’s Office set up the interview between him and Shaffer, who was read her rights and gave her account of what happened.
Bourque said Shaffer told him she and a group of friends had been in town for her birthday weekend and noticed multiple people chasing the rooster in downtown Ocean Springs, giving her the idea to pick it up but attested to putting the rooster back down.
Bourque testified that he showed Shaffer surveillance video taken in front of Glory Bound Gyro Co., where she positively identified herself as the woman in the video holding a rooster walking east on Government Street.
The video also showed Shaffer in the company of three other men, which Bourque said she could only identify one person as Omar and that even though she had known Omar for a long time, she did not know his last name or have a way to get in touch with him. Testimony also revealed the other two men were Omar’s friends and thus Shaffer couldn’t give any further information about them.
Surveillance video taken from Mary Mahoney’s restaurant in Biloxi was also shown to the court, and Josh Pitalo was called as another witness. Pitalo works in a management position at the restaurant and testified he lived here as well since the restaurant is his family’s business.
Pitalo told the court as he was leaving the property on the morning of April 24, he noticed a mass under a tree near the south end of the parking lot and said it looked like a rooster with “feet in the air.” Pitalo said when he returned two hours later, the rooster was gone. After the disappearance of Carl gained media traction, Pitalo told the court he decided to review the security footage of that Sunday morning and work backward into Saturday night.
Bourque had shown this video to Shaffer as well during their interview, and testified in court that Shaffer said that the surveillance video showed her truck pulling into the parking lot of Mary Mahoney’s because she had been drinking and was feeling too unwell to drive. The video showed Shaffer sitting on the tailgate of the truck after she threw up and then getting back in the vehicle through the passenger side. After the truck drove off, a dark mass could be seen on the ground near where the truck had been parked.
When cross examined by Alonzo, Pitalo was unable to verify if the rooster had come from the back or the driver’s side of the truck. Pitalo also told the court he did not see anyone he could identify as Shaffer handling the bird in the parking lot of the restaurant.
After Pitalo was dismissed from the stand, Tynes called Brandi England to the stand. England told the court she works at Twisted Anchor Tattoo on Government Street in Ocean Springs and was working the night of Carl’s disappearance. England told the court how Carl would spend his evenings perched on a railing in front of the shop, often sleeping there once the sun had set. England also said it was not uncommon for her to witness passers-by harass Carl, which upset her.
“To us, he was like a pet,” she said.
England told the court she remembered seeing Shaffer pick Carl up off his roost and walk off, but she never saw Shaffer physically abuse the rooster.
Once England left the stand, the prosecution rested. Alonzo took a few minutes to speak with his client separately, and when they returned, the defense rested as well.
Ultimately, Taylor found Shaffer guilty of the charges before her.
Back in April, Carl’s death sent shockwaves through Ocean Springs because the rooster was so well known in the downtown area. Mourners even held a second line parade and painted a mural in his honor.
Some animal lovers gathered in Ocean Springs for Wednesday’s court proceedings. Those we spoke with seemed happy with the court’s decision.
“At least she’s been prosecuted,” Animal Activist Doll Stanley said. “At least it’s been recognized that this was a crime.”
“I don’t want people to be mean to the girl who hurt Carl, but I also want justice to be served.” said Chelsea Prince. “And I wanted her to be able to know that this wasn’t just a funny prank, that it hurt a lot of people.”
Alonzo told WLOX that he plans to appeal the case to county court.
“My client did not kill Carl,” he said. “The evidence, there was not sufficent evidence to convict in this particular matter. I disagree with the judge’s decision, but I do respect it. My client is a mother of four. She works hard. She would never harm a defenseless animal. She’s just not that kind of person.”
Alonzo also said if officials can identify and locate the three men also present that night, he plans to include them in the next trial.
The misdemeanor animal cruelty charge is punishable with up to six months in jail and/or no more than a $1,000 fine.
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