Couple to serve probation in Delta County livestock abuse case
A Delta County couple must serve two years of probation on animal-cruelty charges after both agreed to a deal with prosecutors.
Charles Keune and his wife, Patricia, lodged Alford pleas in Delta County Court on Wednesday, contending they did no wrong but acknowledging the strength of the case against them.
Judge Sandra K. Miller ordered Charles Keune to serve two years of supervised probation and Patricia Keune two years of unsupervised probation.
In doing so, Miller noted that Charles Keune suffered from an unspecified “systemic” medical condition that might have contributed to the incidents in which authorities alleged the Keunes neglected 11 animals. One of those animals, a horse, died on March 12, setting off a chain of events that led to the filing of 11 charges each against the Keunes.
Charles Keune later said he was unaware of the medical condition to which Miller referred. Miller noted that if he sought medical attention, his probation could become unsupervised.
The judge also noted that Patricia Keune was possibly in danger. She declined later to address that comment.
Kris Dahlstrom, a resident who prodded law enforcement to pursue charges against the Keunes, said she was “pretty outraged” that the Keunes are prohibited by the sentence from owning livestock for the two years of their probations. They should have been banned from ownership for at least two years per neglected animal, Dahlstrom said.
While the Keunes’ pleas have no legal force — they are treated by the court as guilty pleas — Miller said she was convinced that the animals were mistreated.
“I’m not buying that, having read the affidavit and looked at the pictures,” Miller said of the Keunes’ plea.
The Keunes had hoped to defend themselves against the charges but would have had no access to evidence, such as the body of the dead horse or the other animals, their Grand Junction attorney, T. Michael Holmes, said after the hearing.
Doing so “would have been very expensive,” Holmes said.
Patricia Keune said she had raised the 22-year-old thoroughbred that died from birth and said she no longer had ties to Colorado.
She plans to return to Oklahoma “to go on with life,” Patricia Keune said.
Delta County Sheriff Fred McKee said the case against the Keunes would have been difficult to overcome.
“We had veterinarians, experts from the state to the county level” who would have testified that the Keunes’ animals were “cruelly and intentionally neglected,” McKee said.
Under the terms of the deal, the Keunes’ previous pleas of guilt in connection with the death of the horse were withdrawn, as was a previous agreement under which they could have avoided having the charge be reflected in their criminal record.
Ten additional counts also were dismissed and the Keunes each will have a Class 1 misdemeanor, the highest-level misdemeanor, on their record.
As a result of the investigation, the sheriff’s office had a second deputy trained to investigate cases of animal cruelty, McKee said.