An Overton man was sentenced Monday in Dawson County District Court to serve 30 months of probation following his conviction of Abandonment or Cruel Neglect of Animals. Eugene Wempen, Sr was also ordered by District Judge Jim Doyle to not own, possess or reside with any animals for 15 years, the maximum sentencing enhancement for such crimes under state statute. The prohibition covers not only livestock but, also any pets such as cats and dogs.
The case stems from an investigation by the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office on April 12, 2018. A deputy observed several cattle deceased in corrals and others displaying outward signs of possible malnutrition and sickness. A search warrant was obtained for further investigation. At the time, then-Chief Deputy Mike Hudson said the Sheriff’s Office, in cooperation with area veterinarians and producers were caring for and providing the appropriate nutrition for the remaining animals.
Sixty-five(65) head of cattle were dead and another 75 head of cattle were relocated from the property. All other animals located on the property were removed and being cared for as well. They included llamas, donkeys, miniature ponies, horses, goats, sheep and hogs.
During the sentencing hearing on Monday, Dawson County Attorney Liz Waterman said the State, the Defense and State Probation Office jointly recommended a sentence of probation. She said the reason she supports that “is varied” but, noted that the main objective in the case was to obtain the maximum prohibition on Wempen being able to have any animals.
Dawson County Attorney explained the State’s position in the case of Eugene Wempen, Sr. in Dawson County District Court on Monday January 11, 2019.
Defense Attorney Brian Davis, said it was not a simple case. That Wempen, 60, graduated from high school and went directly to the farm. He said the animals were getting feed but, “not enough feed” and that Wempen himself acknowledged that. Davis said Wempen was not out to commit any crimes but, “made some poor decisions”.
Defense Attorney Brian Davis discussed factors in the case of Eugene Wempen, Sr. in Dawson County District Court on Monday January 11, 2019.
An arrest affidavit said a there were several feed bunks located throughout the property, none appeared to contain any feed that the animals could eat. Some hay on the property was fed to the animals by the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office and livestock professionals. The animals were not relocated on the first day of the investigation because it appeared that many of them would not survive the loading and unloading process.
Court records say two search warrants were served on the property and animals were seized over a five day period. The County of Dawson has filed a separate action seeking court orders regarding the disposition and cost of care for the various animals and livestock seized.
Wempen’s wife, Diane and son Eugene Wempen, Jr face similar charges. On Friday their cases were continued and set for jury trials on May 7, 2019.