WOODSTOCK – Authorities could charge a woman with more offenses related to an animal cruelty case, a Shenandoah County prosecutor said Friday.
Erica Lindsay Stinson appeared in Shenandoah County General District Court on Friday where she stands charged with two felony counts of torture of an animal resulting in death, two misdemeanor counts of cruelty to animals and one misdemeanor of inadequate care for animals. Stinson, 29, of 993 Stickley Loop, Strasburg, remains free on her own recognizance.
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Amanda Strecky appeared for the prosecution. Defense attorney M. Victoria Shea represents Stinson. Judge Amy Tisinger heard the case.
The prosecutor’s office also filed a civil seizure request with the court seeking to take any remaining animals not already surrendered to the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office. Strecky advised Tisinger that Shea wanted the court to postpone any proceedings with the civil seizure case. Strecky said she wanted the court to move forward with the seizure request given the condition and age of the remaining animals.
“These animals are very elderly and they need a lot of care and the bills are already extensive to the Sheriff’s Office,” Strecky said.
Stinson could testify in the seizure request without compromising her criminal cases, Strecky said.
The prosecutor went on to say that she wants the court to set another date for the further proceedings in the case. Strecky said she and the investigating officer, Sgt. Erin Brogan with the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office, expect to bring a “large number” of additional charges in Stinson’s case. Strecky said she also expects to charge one or more co-defendants in the case. Given the amount of time that could pass until the court hears the case again, Strecky said the seizure request should take place sooner for the sake of the animals that remain in a shelter environment.
Stinson voluntarily surrendered a total of 35 animals to the Sheriff’s Office, Strecky said. However, three more animals were not signed over to the Sheriff’s Office and an additional five to seven animals remain at Stinson’s residence, Strecky said. Tisinger commented that Stinson had “done an enormous favor” for the prosecution.
Tisinger scheduled the civil seizure proceeding for next week to allow the parties to further discuss the matter.
In the civil seizure case, Brogan filed a petition for the determination of cruel treatment, inadequate care or abandonment involving animals. The petition states that Brogan seized three dogs belonging to Stinson and the rescue organization. The commonwealth intends to introduce evidence at the seizure hearing of the animals’ cruel treatment, lack of adequate care or abandonment. The commonwealth then plans to ask the court to find the animals were treated cruelly, deprived of adequate care or abandoned and will order that the Sheriff’s Office take custody of the dogs.
The investigation began in late February, according to court documents. Brogan obtained a search warrant on March 3 pertaining to River’s Edge Animal Sanctuary and Stinson. Brogan recovered 19 dogs, four cats, a cell phone and miscellaneous papers, according to the search warrants inventory.
Brogan states in the affidavit for the search warrant that she responded to the Stickley Loop residence on Feb. 27 for a welfare check with Adult Protective Services. Brogan states she made contact with Stinson who operates River’s Edge Senior Sanctuary and Rescue.
“The (residence) where the animals were housed was covered in feces with a strong smell of urine,” Brogan states.
Stinson surrendered 16 dogs to the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office. One of the canines had to be euthanized because of a severe infection, according to the affidavit.
Brogan also had sought the search warrant to check electronic devices as part of the investigation. Brogan states that Stinson uses electronic devices for adoption applications, contact with potential adopters and shelters she would take animals from.
Brogan also obtained a search warrant to obtain information and records from Facebook pertaining to an account for the River’s Edge Senior Sanctuary and Rescue.
An affidavit filed with the search warrant for Facebook information provides more details about the investigation.
“During the search warrant, Brogan observed animals to be living in bad conditions as well as several animals needing immediate medical care,” the affidavit states. “Erica Stinson represents River’s Edge Animal Sanctuary and Rescue where she receives donations for animals taken into her care.”
Stinson uses Facebook for fundraising and solicitation of funds, Brogan states in the affidavit. Stinson also uses Facebook to advertise animals available for adoption and previous adoptions.