Former Red Oak resident Barbara Renee Lee was found in violation of her probation that was connected to a 2012 conviction of cruelty to animals.
Tuesday mornin, Judge Gene Calvert Jr. sentenced Lee to 120 days in the Wayne McCollum Detention Center with credit for seven days served.
During the original trial, evidence showed that two of the four horses in Lee’s care died of starvation and malnourishment in 2009. The two remaining horses were near death when investigators were called to the scene.
Lee was sentenced to a year in jail, but that sentence was later suspended and she was place on community supervision for a year. As part of the sentence Lee had to pay a $2,500 fine, could not own any horses for at least a year, had to find homes for the horse she still owned and had to complete 100 hours of community service related to animal welfare.
Ellis County Assistant County and District Attorney Seth McCloskey alleged that Lee was in violation of her probation because she pled guilty to two criminal offences in Denton County relating to animal cruelty, was not completing her community service, was not paying her community supervision fees, failed not to house and failed to find proper homes for horses she did own before the April 1, 2012 deadline.
The first person called to the stand was Benjamin Bow with the Ellis County Adult Probation Office. Assistant County and District Attorney Morgan Taylor asked Bow about Lee’s record of community service.
Bow informed the court that Lee had not completed any hours of her community service in the eight months after her conviction. It was only after she was arrested in October that community service hours were reported to the adult probation office.
Bow said Lee had completed 96 hours during the week before the Texas Country Reporter Festival. The remaining four hours were earned from working at Waxahachie Care. Bow also reported that Lee had missed a few community supervision payments totaling approximately $120. Bow said that in his opinion Lee is not a good candidate for probation.
Following Bow’s testimony, Denton County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Kirk Sissney was called to testify. Sissney is the animal crimes investigator for the DCSO.
Following her conviction in 2012, Lee moved to Denton and later to Mansfield.
Sissney told the court that he was asked by the Ellis County and District Attorneys Office to see if Lee had any horses on her property. Sissney said he did observe horses on property that was controlled by Lee around April 2 or 3.
Later Sissney and other law enforcement officers were called out to a nearby property to capture a horse that had escaped. Lee said he heard from another officer that Lee informed them that it was her horse they were loading up into a trailer. The horse that law enforcement took into custody appeared to be underweight.
The following day, April 10, law enforcement seized the remaining horse from Lee, Sissney said.
Defense Attorney Bill Scott called Lee to the stand to testify. Lee told the court that it was her son that had talked to the officers who were loading up the horse that escaped and not she.
Lee said she had given the horses to her son to take care of before the April 1, 2012 deadline, and they were not on the three-acre parcel of property she rented. The horses were on the other side of the fence, where they had plenty of food and water, and were the responsibility of her son.
Sissney testified that when he was called out to the property he observed the horses in the three-acre area that Lee controlled.
Lee stated that she had difficulties paying her community supervision payments because she was unemployed. The only funds she received were from the state controllers office to help with children that she adopted and food stamps.
In closing arguments McCloskey said Lee has demonstrated to the court that she can’t follow the rules and can’t care for animals on her property. Lee is not a good probationer and deserves a year in jail, he said.
Scott said the reason Lee has been unable to hold down a job is that she has been going back and forth to court. She does not desire to be in charge of animals and worked at completing her community service. Scott asked the court to allow Lee to remain on probation.
Calvert in his ruling found Lee guilty of violating her probation for failure to pay community supervision fees, committing additional crimes in Denton County and not properly finding homes for the animals in her care as she was instructed to by the court.
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