Indiana governor weighs in on Connersville deer rescue

A Connersville Police officer and his wife are facing jail time after they nursed a deer back to health at their home.
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Governor Mike Pence has asked the Department of Natural Resources for a briefing on the case of the Connersville couple being prosecuted for illegally possessing a deer they rescued and tried to raise until it could be returned to the wild.

The governor has said, "It appears conservation officers acted appropriately."

Eyewitness News first told you about the story Friday. A Connersville Police officer and his wife are facing jail time after they nursed a deer back to health at their home.

It is illegal in Indiana to take in a wild animal like a deer.

More than 15,000 people are supporting the couple on a Facebook page, and a donation page has also been set up to support the couple's legal battle.

Tuesday morning, there was national media attention for Jeff and Jennifer Counceller when they appeared as guests on Good Morning America.

"We never dreamed it would come to this point," said Jennifer Counceller.

Connserville Police Officer Jeff Counceller and his wife, Jennifer, stood in front of the Fayette County Courthouse Tuesday.

Criminal charges filed in the courthouse have turned their life upside down.

"We are overwhelmed. We are very grateful. It's very stressful," said Jennifer.

Ever since Eyewitness News broke their story, the couple has received global support for their little deer, Dani.

Thousands have signed an online petition arguing to Indiana state lawmakers to drop the criminal charges filed by the Department of Natural Resources.

In June, DNR officers made the decision to euthanize Dani, but the day conservation officers showed up to put Dani down, she had somehow escaped.

Eyewitness News asked Jennifer Counceller, "Who let Dani free?"

"The DNR report does say my father, but he has never told me he set Dani loose," she said.

"Is this some sort of personal vendetta against either of you?" Eyewitness News asked.

Jeff Counceller responded, "I am beginning to wonder. I don't know. I think the whole thing is being blown out of proportion. You have a Decatur County prosecutor involved in a Fayette County incident with a Union County judge. A big waste of taxpayer money."

Eyewitness News went searching for answers from the special prosecutor.  We were told he wasn't available.

His colleague, Doug Brown in Decatur County, said the couple's March trial date is still on: "We are restricted from trying the case in the media. It is very clear in the rules of professional conduct."

Brown says there is no reason to believe these charges will change.

A DNR spokesperson told Eyewitness News they will not comment on matters going to trial.

The Councellers said Dani is alive and living in the woods behind the Counceller's home in Connersville.

See a list of wildlife rehabilitators here.