A Hubbardton woman will appear in court today to face a charge of animal cruelty for a second time.
A week after her daughter, Elizabeth M. Harke, 25, pleaded innocent to an identical charge, Suzanne M. Hegarty, 53, was scheduled to appear in Rutland criminal court this morning to answer to a misdemeanor offense of cruelty to animals by depriving them of adequate food, water, shelter, rest, sanitation or necessary medical attention.
Hegarty faced the same charge in 2009 when she accepted a plea deal from prosecutors and pleaded guilty in exchange for an eight-year deferred sentence and probation as well as a mandate that 100 animals be removed from the farm she owned in Brandon.
She was allowed to keep 17 of her pets and livestock but she was forbidden from breeding animals, was ordered to spay and neuter her pets, and make monthly veterinarian visits.
Hegarty transferred ownership of the farm at 671 Kimball Road to her daughter in 2009 but continued to make all decisions about activities on the farm where police in a court affidavit describe finding numerous malnourished or dead animals this spring.
In an interview with Rutland County Sheriff’s Deputy Milicia Lynds in April, Harke told police that while her name was on the farm “her mom Suzanne had complete control over what happened there.
“For instance, there was a point where Harke felt overwhelmed with the number of horses on the farm and wanted to sell some of them. Suzanne became very upset and demanded that they not be sold,” Lynds wrote.
The daughter went on to tell police that she could no longer enable her mother and the 25-year-old told police she was frustrated that she wasn’t allowed to work or go to college because then her mother wouldn’t have anyone to keep up the farm.
But police said the keeping up of the farm was in shambles, and Lynds described numerous discoveries of malnourished or sick animals as well as dead animals scattered around the farm.
“As I walked around with (a farmhand) you could see bones littered all over the property. There were full skeletons that were on the surface next to several calf huts,” the deputy wrote.
In an interview with a former farmhand, Wade Bridger, 47, Lynds said she learned that Hegarty had allegedly tried to hide the number of animals she owned from police.
According to the affidavit, Bridger told police that “Suzanne Hegarty had hired him to build a secret room at their residence in Hubbardton. The purpose of the room was to hide the animals Suzanne was not allowed to have in case they were raided by the police.”
If convicted of the misdemeanor charges, Hegarty and Harke face up to one year in jail.
Hegarty, who will also answer today to a charge of violating her probation, could face up to another two years in jail for her prior conviction.