ROGERSVILLE — A Hawkins County couple accused of abandoning 15 caged animals at a residence near Church Hill, 12 of which were discovered dead by police on Dec. 31, were sentenced to six months probation Wednesday as part of a plea agreement.
Aside from probation, Jamie Lee Kistner, 33, and Crystal Lea Ann Davidson, 30, both of 317 Waterson Gap Road, Surgoinsville, were also sentenced Wednesday in Hawkins County Sessions Court to 48 hours each of community service and are prohibited from owning animals for one year.
Sessions Judge J. Todd Ross said he recommends the couple serve their community service at the Hawkins County Humane Society.
The couple offered an Alford plea Wednesday to a single count of Class B misdemeanor animal cruelty.
Kistner and Davidson had been scheduled for a trial Wednesday in Sessions Court, but by late afternoon defense attorney Todd East and the prosecutor worked out a plea agreement.
Under an Alford plea, the defendants maintain innocence but admit that sufficient evidence exists with which the prosecution could likely convince a judge or jury to find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Kistner and Davidson were originally charged with 12 counts each of Class A misdemeanor cruelty to animals.
Hawkins County deputies determined Kistner and Davidson were the most recent tenants at 449 Payne Ridge Road near Church Hill, where the dead animals were found.
Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Nathan Simpson wrote in his report that on Dec. 31 he found a large amount of trash on the Payne Ridge Road property, as well as several animal cages and pens with deceased animals in them.
Among the deceased animals were eight rabbits, two chickens, one duck and one goat.
Sheriff Ronnie Lawson told the Times-News last month it appeared that the animals had starved to death.
Three animals survived, including a goat, a chicken and a duck.
Simpson stated in his report that Kistner and Davidson admitted they owned all of the animals, took responsibility “for the results founds,” and said the deceased animals would be cleaned up as soon as possible.
Defense attorney Todd East told the judge Wednesday the property is about 85 percent cleaned up as of Wednesday and would be 100 percent cleaned up shortly.