100 dead animals discovered in Madison County barn
Police found the carcasses of nearly 100 animals on a rural Madison County farm. Law enforcement officials also say the family was living in filth, near a barn where the dead livestock was stacked. The gruesome scene was discovered on a property near Elwood.
Sheriff Ron Richardson told Eyewitness News that officers made the discovery Tuesday evening and sought a search warrant after neighbors reported seeing animal carcasses on the property. He estimates anywhere from 75 to 100 animals were found dead on the property.
Richardson calls the property between County Roads 350 and 400 west on County Road 1700 North a crime scene.
Protected from biological and other hazards, lawmen, health officials and a deputy prosecutor labored in barns and farm pens filled with animals living and dead.
"We are all very emotional about how all these animals were taken care of and the possible living conditions children might have been living in," said Sheriff Richardson.
A neighbor's complaint brought sheriff's deputies to the Madison County farm Tuesday night. Dozens of hungry and thirsty horses, sheep rabbits, chickens, turkeys, even a llama were moved to safety.
Investigators found another hundred or more decaying carcasses. The director of the local Animal Protection League was overwhelmed.
Maleah Stringer is the director of Madison County's Animal Protection League. She says the league does not have the resources to care for the animals and the community will have to step up. Stringer says they are already being flooded with calls offering food and other help.
"Complete disregard for any sort of compassion or caring or humanity. It's just appalling," said Stringer.
Even more appalling, investigators believe, is that the owners and their two children at one point lived one of the barns, using buckets for toilets.
Daniel and Carrie Ault run the Strawtown animal auction, and recently purchased a meat packing company. Daniel Ault returned to the farm and talked with detectives.
"He shared he got overwhelmed and got behind. This is a very serious situation," said the sheriff, who expects criminal charges.
By mid-afternoon, backhoes were digging large pits to bury the animals. Investigators are gathering evidence for possible criminal charges. Child Protection Services is checking on the children's welfare.
The state veterinarian is checking the health of the surviving animals to determine what care they need and if they can be removed and given to foster or adoptive families.
How you can help
If you are able to take in one of the animals, or if you can donate food, money or other items, contact Maleahstringer@aol.com.