A New York animal sanctuary proprietor is charged with the crime after officers mentioned cows from a close-by beef farm obtained misplaced on his property and refused to return them to their proprietor.
Tracy Murphy, president and founding father ofAsha’s Farm Sanctuary in Newfane, a town 38 miles north of Buffalo near Lake Ontario, was arrested Tuesday and charged with third-degree money theft, New York State police said.
McKee Farm owner Scott Gregson told USA TODAY that last month two of his beef cows mysteriously escaped from his pasture, which is enclosed by an electric barbed wire fence.
“I still don’t know how they got out today,” said Gregson, 43, on Wednesday. “The fence is in good condition and the gates were all locked.”
Gregson, whose property is about 1/2 mile from Murphy’s animal sanctuary, said he learned his cattle were on the run after receiving a call from the SPCA telling him his cows were at the sanctuary. and they had been there for about five days.
So Gregson, who said he didn’t know Murphy at the time, went to visit her at home earlier last week to get her cows.
“He asked me if I had proof that I was the owner, then told me to leave his property because I was trespassing,” he said.
A refusal, a warrant and an arrest
On July 25, Lockport soldiers, the SPCA and Gregson responded to Murphy’s property to retrieve the animals, the soldiers wrote in a press release.
But Murphy, the soldiers said, refused to return them.
A warrant was then executed for Murphy’s arrest and the cows returned to their owner.
After she was taken into custody, the soldiers said, Murphy was drafted into the Niagara County Jail. During a court summons later Tuesday, she pleaded not guilty to the felony charge.
She has remained free on bail since Wednesday, officials said. If convicted of the crime, Murphy faces prison.
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Gregson said that after the cows were returned to the farm where he lives with his wife and children, they were taken to a safe place “for their and my family’s safety.”
“We are happy to have our cattle back. We hope that never happened. We are a farming community and the cattle go … people tend to help each other when that happens.”
Murphy could not be reached immediately for comment from USA TODAY.
“I just want to thank everyone who is supporting our family in this difficult time. It is difficult to try to explain to our children what is happening.”
Natalie Neysa Alund covers the trending news for USA TODAY. Reach her at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @nataliealund.