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State Witnesses Testify in First Full Day of Animal Abuse Trial

The condition of animals found during a raid at Dazzle’s Painted Pastures Animal Rescue and Sanctuary was the focus of the testimony for the prosecution's witnesses in the animal abuse trial of owner Dawn Hamill.

Six witness took the stand for the prosecution Wednesday, Sept. 12, in the first full day of the trial of Dawn Hamill, who is accused of misdemeanor animal neglect after animals were removed from a raid of her .

The trial was briefly delayed while Judge Anna Helen Demacopolous questioned a juror about during a recess the day before.

"Absolutely not," the juror responded. "No one at all."

After there were no questions from the prosecution or the defense for the juror, Demacopolous allowed the trial to proceed.

Assistant State's Attorneys Richard Stake Jr. and Sarah Naughton are prosecuting the case, which is in its second trial after a . Hamill is is charged with 10 counts of neglect, stemming from the discovery of a dead cat, a dead miniature horse and eight sickly puppies during a on her four-acre farm. Cook County sheriff’s police from the rescue.

Hamill is represented by defense attorney Purav Bhatt.

Key Testimony for the State

The prosecution's central witness testified last, but her name had been mentioned many times before she took the stand. Christine Kelly, the Painted Pastures employee whose call to Cook County Animal Control is reportedly what put the process for the raid in motion, was sworn in late Wednesday afternoon.

On direct examination, Kelly, 31, said she worked seven days a week for several hours a day taking care of the animals. She said she was responsible for the dogs in the large barn and some of the horses at the rescue. Kelly said sometimes she wasn't paid her $600 weekly salary for her work, and she often used some of her own money to buy food and supplies for the animals.

Kelly said she and Hamill had been friends, but the relationship began to sour around November of 2010. She claimed Hamill "had different priorities" rather than taking care of the animals, and their care had fallen on her. In January of 2011, according to Kelly, Hamill sent her to a shelter in Missouri to pick up 23 more dogs for an adoption event the rescue was participating in and for which they could receive monetary incentives.

Stake walked Kelly through the events leading up to the Feb. 11, 2011, raid. Late in the evening of Feb. 6, Kelly and Hamill argued over the phone, and Hamill demanded Kelly return to the sanctuary to build a stall for a miniature horse Hamill had just acquired.

"[She screamed at me], and I screamed back that was no way I was coming up there to build a stall and she should figure it out on her own," Kelly said.

At that point, Kelly said she quit; Hamill has claimed Kelly was fired. On Feb. 7, Kelly returned to the rescue to pick up some of her own animals and heard Hamill on the phone with the Illinois Department of Agriculture, Kelly said.

"She told them all these dogs had been abandoned, and she was overwhelmed and she wasn't going to care for them anymore," Kelly said.

That's when Kelly said she called Animal Control, not only because she didn't want to be blamed for the condition of Hamill's rescue, but because the Department of Agriculture had been to the facility before and didn't take action.

"They would just say, 'OK, try to fix it'," she said.

On cross examination, defense attorney Bhatt questioned Kelly about her last day, asserting she didn't quit but was fired. Bhatt also asked if Kelly was told by Hamill not to bring any more animals to the rescue.

Kelly said she was told not to bring anymore animals during a barn renovation months earlier but that in January Hamill told her to go get more dogs. Kelly also said she told Hamill she had made a veterinary appointment for the miniature horses, one of which was found dead during the raid. She said that she also had told Hamill that one of the puppies brought back from Missouri was adopted by a woman who called later to say the puppy was very sick. Ultimately, it was discovered the puppy had parvovirus, Kelly said. Parvo is an extremely contagious disease that can cause death in dogs.

Other Witnesses

The state opened its case by calling Tyra Brown, an officer with the Cook County Sheriff's Office animal crimes unit, who was present during the February raid with Larry Draus, his partner. Draus was a key witness during Hamill's first trial but his on a federal extortion charge , and the state opted .

Brown testified that he got a call from Cook County Animal Control about abused animals at Painted Pastures. He and Draus later obtained a search warrant based on that information, Brown said, and when they went out to Hamill's property, they saw animals were kept in cold, filthy conditions.

Prosecutors then showed a video of the raid, with parts muted for the jury because the state was not prepared to identify voices on some portions of the footage. The eight-minute video showed a dead miniature horse, a dead cat and a room that appeared to be covered with waste-stained blankets, feces and pink insulation, where the puppies were reportedly kept.

Though Draus wasn't physically at the trial, Bhatt mentioned him several times during cross-examination. Bhatt pointed out that Draus, not Brown, signed the search warrant for Painted Pastures, the incident report and the arrest report.

In questioning witnesses throughout the day who were present at the raid, Bhatt repeatedly questioned how long the eight puppies were by themselves were rescue staff were not allowed to clean up after them. Brown said the raid lasted approximately four hours.

Other witnesses had this to say on the stand:

  • Veterinarian Mark Kahn testified that photographs he was shown of animals taken during the raid depicted puppies with urine burns and covered with feces, as well as horses with overgrown teeth and hooves. Five of the eight puppies included in the indictment tested positive for parvo, he said. Bhatt countered during cross that Kahn wasn't at the scene of the raid to examine the animals in person and questioned the vet about the date the puppies had been tested for the disease; Kahn didn't know.
  • Kathleen Krainas said on the stand that she went to Painted Pastures on Feb. 4 to adopt a dog whose photos she had seen on the Internet. When she went to pick up the dog, Krainas testified, she was "shocked. [The dog's fur] was all tangled up and an utter mess. And she stunk, quite honestly." Unwilling to leave the dog there, Krainas adopted the dog, Penelope, anyway and immediately took her to a groomer and then to a vet, who prescribed pain pills and antibiotics for the dog's severely clogged ears, she said. Counsel for both sides spent time questioning the witness about the adoption contract; the copy the state has apparently doesn't have the same handwriting and initials of Hamill that the copy the defense has.
  • Gregory Papaleo, retired Cook County Animal Control warden, testified during direct that he visited the sanctuary on Feb. 8, three days before the raid. He said he was concerned about the heat in the barn on that day, which was so cold "you could see your breath." He said he spoke with Hamill and she told him that someone was coming to fix the heater. Papaleo admitted he did not write a citation for Hamill and on cross, Bhatt questioned him about that decision further, noting the former warden did not file a report with the Illinois Department of Agriculture either. Papaleo did not revisit the property and was not present for the raid, he said.
  • Crystal Broccardo, an employee with the Animal Welfare League was present for the raid. She testified that she was there to assist loading animals that were to be taken away. She said there was lots of "poop and pee" where the dogs were kept and cats appeared to be sick, with "boogery and runny" eyes and noses. During cross, Broccardo answered affirmatively that she is not a vet and she doesn't know when the cats came to the sanctuary.

What's Next?

Prosecutors Stake and Naughton won't comment on the pending cases, but Bhatt said after Wednesday's testimony: "It's been a long day. We got a lot of information to the jury.

"[The prosecution's] case is to paint my client in the worst possible picture," Bhatt added. "They've had a hard time doing that so far. [State] Witnesses [Thursday] will still have a difficult time doing that. Once we get the opportunity to present the defense, it will all be in good shape."

Testimony is expected to resume at 10 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, in Room 203 of the Markham courthouse. The defense anticipates calling its witnesses by Thursday afternoon.

CORRECTION (11:57 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 13): An early version of this article incorrectly listed the animal neglect charge as a felony. It is actually a misdemeanor.

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