Miller County prosecutors have formally charged three people with felony animal cruelty in connection with dogs found dead in April in a Texarkana, Ark., backyard.
Antonious Lamar Maxwell, 37, Debra Maxwell, 58, and Joyce Cooper, 61, are each facing a single charge of aggravated animal cruelty. According to an arrest affidavit used to create the following account, animal control officers were approached by a man in late March who claimed to have seen a dead dog in the backyard of a house in the 1000 block of Laurel Street as he walked down the alley.
Later on the afternoon of March 28, animal control officers went to the home and knocked. When they received no answer, the officers walked into the backyard and discovered a "highly decomposed" dog carcass "entangled in vines that had been tethered to a fence by a blue leash and chain."
The officers believe the carcass was that of a pit bull between the ages of six months to a year based on the shape of the skull and teeth.
"There was no shelter available for the dog, nor were there adequate food or water bowls close to it," the affidavit states. "We were not able to determine the cause of death."
A second carcass was discovered approximately 25 feet from the home's back steps. Officers believe the dog was an adult that had not been dead as long as the first dog.
"The dog had been tethered to a small tree by a chain which was severely tangled in some bushes around a wooden crate," the affidavit states. "The dog's head was wedged between two small shrubs indicating possible suffocation as a result of prolonged upward pressure against its trachea. Judging by the chew marks at the base of the shrubs, it appeared the dog would have suffered a struggling, slow and painful death."
While the officers were photographing the two carcasses, Cooper arrived at the house. Cooper allegedly told the officers she had been living at the home with her friend, Debra Maxwell, for about two months. Cooper allegedly told the officers that Debra Maxwell had been residing in the house for the last 10 years.
"Ms. Cooper told us that the dogs had been there, alive, when she first moved in and that they belonged to Ms. Maxwell's son," the affidavit states.
Cooper allegedly claimed that Debra Maxwell had told her son to remove the dogs because he wasn't taking care of them. Cooper allegedly said she noticed the dogs were dead a month-and-a-half before the officers discovered them.
Cooper allegedly contacted Debra Maxwell, who allegedly refused to speak to the officers.
"When Ms. Cooper was asked why she had not intervened or reported the situation or deaths of the animals, she responded by telling us it wasn't her concern, blaming Ms. Maxwell and her son for the dogs' deaths," the affidavit states.
Cooper allegedly refused to give the identity of Debra Maxwell's son and said that she "doesn't usually go into their back yard, and therefore, wasn't concerned with the dogs' rotting carcasses being there," the affidavit states.
Cooper and Debra Maxwell are both free on bonds of $10,000. Antonious Maxwell is free on a bond of $30,000. Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Connie Mitchell formally signed off on a charge of aggravated cruelty for each this month. If convicted, the defendants face up to six years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.