01/07/09 — Animal abuse suspect caught

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Animal abuse suspect caught

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on January 7, 2009 1:46 PM

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Lawton McKenzie

A man accused of maintaining a residence filled with dismembered, dying and sick animals has been arrested.

Lawton McKenzie, 28, was arrested Tuesday afternoon at the Wayne County Sheriff's Office after turning himself in, authorities said.

Wayne County Animal Control officers found McKenzie's Fremont area home littered with dismembered animals, bowls of blood and what appeared to be a puppy's head in a plastic food storage bag, authorities said.

Animal control officers also removed 26 animals from the home, including a goat they described as "dying."

The goat was doing better on Tuesday night, after having been treated by a veterinarian, hospitalized and then released, Animal Control Director Justin Scally said.

McKenzie is being charged with three misdemeanor counts of animal abuse, according to Scally, who described the scene as "horrific."

Investigators also found the remains of several predatory birds, such as owls, on the property.

That could be a felony if the county game warden decides that the law applies to McKenzie in this case.

"Certain animals you cannot have in your possession, no matter what, dead or alive," Wayne County Sheriff's Office Investigations Capt. Tom Effler said. "If what he had is some of those animals, (charging him) that, would be up to the game warden."

The animal control director said McKenzie never made claims that the dismembered animals were for any religious purpose.

"The only statements that he gave, was he was using the bones for necklaces and things like that," Scally said. "But he never made any statements specifically that it was religious."

McKenzie's three misdemeanor charges have to do with two dogs and the recuperating goat.

Police records show that McKenzie had reportedly spent some time in New Orleans, reporting that city as his address in 2006, and that he has a prior criminal record with several misdemeanors, but no charges relating to animals.

Meanwhile, the county has filed a civil complaint against McKenzie requiring that he pay for the upkeep of the animals seized from his home.

The county also wants McKenzie to post sufficient funds with the Wayne County Clerk of Superior Court to ensure the care of the animals for an additional 30 days.

McKenzie is scheduled to appear in court on the civil charge Jan. 15.