JESUS GARCIA LAGUNILLA

Jesus Garcia Lagunilla

WOODSTOCK -- The Shenandoah County grand jury could consider indicting an Edinburg area man suspected of playing a role in a cockfighting operation.

Jesus Garcia Lagunilla, 49, of 920 Barbershop Road, Edinburg, faces a possible indictment by a grand jury Wednesday on a felony count of possession of animals used in fighting. The grand jury also may consider indicting Lagunilla on one felony count of possession of a controlled substance.

Lagunilla has remained free on bond since his release from Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail on Dec. 14. Judge Amy Tisinger granted Lagunilla’s release on a $10,000 secured bond during a hearing in Shenandoah County General District Court on Dec. 14.

John F. O’Neill Castro represented Lagunilla in the district court. Lagunilla appeared in court Jan. 4 for a scheduled preliminary hearing on his charges. He waived his right to a preliminary hearing and Tisinger certified Lagunilla's charges of possession of animals for fighting and possession of drugs to the grand jury that is scheduled to meet Wednesday.

Deputies with the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office arrested Lagunilla on Nov. 20 and seized 60 roosters from the defendant’s home west of Edinburg. The Sheriff’s Office worked with agents of the Virginia Animal Fighting Task Force on the investigation.

Retired Judge Dennis L. Hupp granted a request from Commonwealth’s Attorney Amanda Wiseley to appoint a special assistant prosecutor to help her office prosecute the case. Wiseley states in the order dated Nov. 26 and signed by Hupp that the case involves allegations of illegal animal fighting in the county and that the Virginia Office of the Attorney General has an animal law unit specifically designated for these types of investigations. K. Michelle Welch, senior assistant attorney general, leads the animal law unit and has expertise in animal fighting cases, Wiseley notes. The prosecutor asked that the court appoint Welch or a designee to assist.

Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Wesley Dellinger said shortly after Lagunilla’s arrest that deputies found the birds tethered to barrels and cages. Agents removed the birds from the property, Dellinger said. Deputy Erin Brogan, an animal control officer with the Sheriff’s Office, noted in her criminal complaint filed with the charging documents that she found birds with fresh wounds or scarred faces.

Agents also discovered evidence of a small methamphetamine laboratory during a search of Lagunilla’s property, Dellinger said. Authorities later charged Lagunilla with possession of a controlled substance.

Contact Alex Bridges at abridges@nvdaily.com