Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Wesa-A-Geh-Ya owners plead guilty to lying about tiger attack

Wesa-A-Geh-Ya owners plead guilty to lying about tiger attack

Last modified: Wednesday, February 4, 2009 3:12 AM CST

By Sarah Whitney

Ken and Sandra Smith pleaded guilty in early January to charges of tampering with evidence, according to court documents.

The Smiths were charged in September after lying to Warren County sheriff's deputies about a tiger attack at Wesa-A-Geh-Ya, the exotic animal facility the couple owned in northern unincorporated Warren County.

The facility housed close to 50 exotic animals including tigers, lions, wolves and a bear.

The Smiths, along with animal facility volunteer Roy Elder, told deputies a black and white pit bull had attacked volunteer Jacob Barr and ran off Aug. 3, according to the probable cause statements filed by the Warren County Sheriff's Department.

Barr later told his father he had been attacked by a tiger, Sheriff Kevin Harrison said at the time.

The father then informed deputies of the attack, Harrison said. Barr lost his lower leg above the knee as a result of the attack. The tiger was shot and killed.

Elder pleaded guilty to the charges in December and received probation, according to court records.

The Smiths also received probation in exchange for the plea, said Prosecuting Attorney Mike Wright.

The couple was charged because they initially lied about the attack, Wright said.

"It was the fact that something horrible had happened and they tried to cover it up," he said. "If they hadn't had tried to cover it up, I don't think any charges would have been filed."

When the attack happened, Ken Smith was serving probation on a previous charge of failing to register dangerous animals with the Warren County Sheriff's department.

The new charge will not affect Ken Smith's probation for the previous charge, Wright said.

"As part of his plea to go through, it was understood we would not file a motion to revoke in the other case," he said.

The Smiths closed Wesa-A-Geh-Ya after the attack. The animals were given to animal sanctuaries in Oklahoma, North Carolina and Colorado.

A personal injury case against the Smiths, filed by Barr in September, is still pending.

http://suburbanjournals.stltoday.com/articles/2009/02/04/warren/crime/0204war-wesa0.txt

http://www.bigcatrescue.org

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