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Sordid home conditions lead to charges of both child and animal cruelty

May 22, 2012 - By Christina George, Staff Writer

A Riverton woman is facing multiple charges of both endangering children and animal cruelty after police say they found unattended small children and several dogs in unsanitary living conditions at her house.

Arlie Marie Stark, 32, was arrested on a warrant for five counts of endangering children and seven counts of cruelty to animals.

A May 7 preliminary hearing was continued and has not yet been rescheduled.

Stark appeared in Lander Circuit Court on May 9, where her bond was reduced to an unsecured $2,500.

The felony endangering children charges each carry up to five years in prison and $5,000 in fines.

The charges concerning cruelty to animals are misdemeanors and each carry up to a year in jail and $5,000 in fines.

According to an affidavit filed March 30 by Riverton police detective Julie Mathews, officers were dispatched either on or about Feb. 18 to 514 S. Third St. East in Riverton for a welfare check on the juveniles residing at the house.

Mathews said that on arrival, officer Kiel Holder and Sgt. Todd Beverly came into contact with two dogs, which they described to be "very malnourished and aggressive."

"Officers also observed the yard of the residence to be littered with miscellaneous items such as appliances, a parted-out hot tub as well as boards with nails in them, gas containers opened and turned upside down, piles of metal scraps with sharp edges and splintered wood, (and) 10 or more bicycles broken and parted out," Mathews said.

She said she saw a refrigerator and freezer in the back yard without the doors removed or locked, which posed a "serious danger of suffocation to young children if they were to crawl inside and get trapped."

According to Mathews's statement, Holder looked through a window and saw several small children in the residence. One of the children, about 8 or 9 years old, came to the window and told Holder that her mother, later identified as Stark, was dropping off a friend at the casino and not home.

"When asked how long Stark had been gone, (the child) replied that Stark had started a movie for them before she left and that the movie was about to end," Mathews said.

The child told Holder there were four other children at the residence, and that she was taking care of them, something she had done in the past.

Mathews said that after the child allowed Holder to come inside, he was overwhelmed by heat and the smell of urine and ammonia.

"Officer Holder observed the living room to be covered in diapers, dirty clothes and animal feces," Mathews said. "Officer Holder also observed several dog kennels buried under clothes and trash."

Holder reportedly saw a boy, age 7 or 8, lying on the couch, and three girls, ages around 2 to 7, in a bedroom.

"Officer also noticed a strong scent of animal waste and observed trash and clothes all over the bedroom," Mathews said.

Holder asked dispatch to contact Stark. Dispatch also contacted Tribal Department of Family Services to have a caseworker sent to the location.

Mathews said Holder made contact with tribal caseworker Byron Makeshine, who advised Holder that he had previously made contact with Stark, and that she had an agreement with DFS to keep her house safe for children to occupy it.

Mathews said the mother of four of the children, identified as Vanessa Seminole, then arrived on scene.

"Officer Holder advised Ms. Seminole that the house she was keeping her children in was not suitable for the health and safety of her children," Mathews said.

Mathews said while Holder was speaking with Seminole, Byerly started to look inside the kennels and observed two pit bull puppies inside a wooden box with a metal gate. They were not moving, malnourished and "barely alive."

"Sgt. Byerly saw that there was a pile of feces in the center and back of the kennel which the dogs were lying around, guessing that the pile of feces to be approximately 6 inches high by 18 inches in diameter," Mathews said.

Holder reportedly told Stark she needed to clean up the house, and that he would be contacting the animal control officer.

"Due to the grotesque conditions that the animals were living in and the blatant disregard for the health of the animals, officer holder requested a search warrant for the property ... and specified that the warrant was to remove all animals from the unsuitable conditions and to have the animals cared for by a professional," Mathews said.

In all, seven pit bulls, ranging from puppies to adults, and two cats were removed from the residence and taken to a veterinarian.

RPD animal control officer Amy Luton, who arrived at the scene, reported the dogs to be very thin with their ribs noticeable and back and hipbones visible through their skin.

"A very small thin red female pit bull puppy was taken out of the kennel, and the dog was limp but responsive, with poor skin turgor, and she smelled strongly of decay," Mathews said.

Veterinarian Amy Stockton examined the dogs and reported them to be deprived of adequate food and water. She said a puppy was near death with painful untreated injuries, another was sick with conjunctivitis and a third had injuries from his collar.

One dog also had a mammary tumor and/or cancer, Stockton told police.

Mathews said Stockton reported four dogs were euthanized Feb. 28 because of poor health.

"One puppy was euthanized the first day after it was discovered to have an untreated broken jaw and leg resulting in widespread infection," Mathews said.

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