2011-01-20 / Front Page

Warfdsbg. Man Fined $2,500 In Pig Deaths

Clark pleads to 10 counts of animal cruelty
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz
STAFF WRITER

Basing his guilt on his failure to ask for assistance during the malfunction of his liquid manure system, a former Warfordsburg area pig farmer recently entered a plea to 10 counts of animal cruelty in connection with the death of 832 hogs at his 218-acre farm in Buck Valley.

Daniel Lee Clark Sr., formerly of 949 Harmon Lane, appeared before Magisterial District Judge Carol Jean Johnson on Friday, January 7, to address the 832 summary charges filed last month. Reportedly on hand to hear Clark’s open plea to cruelty to animals were Fulton County District Attorney Travis Kendall, Pennsylvania State Police Cpl. William Baker and defense attorney Clint Barkdoll.

Following Clark’s plea, Judge Johnson ordered Clark to pay a fine totalling $2,500. The maximum penalty allowable for the 10 counts was 900 days incarceration and fines totalling $7,500.

The remaining 822 counts of animal cruelty have since been dismissed.

“I’m relieved this is over, and I simply want to move on with my life,” said Clark through his attorney following the court proceedings.

District Attorney Kendall pointed out that as charged Clark was facing a maximum penalty of 118 years and a fine of $624,000. Kendall stated he did not feel that in order for justice to be served in this case punishment to that extent was not required.

“...Convicted murderers, rapists and child molesters are routinely sentenced to a fraction of that penalty. At 10 counts the court had discretion to sentence Clark to almost 2-1/2 years of incarceration and a fine of $7,500. This was an open plea in that there was no agreement about what penalty the court would impose,” Kendall told the “News.”

Prior to Judge Johnson ruling on the case, the commonwealth displayed and commented on approximately 120 photos that were taken at the scene when it was first discovered. The court also took into consideration Clark’s explanation of the chain of events as well as the commonwealth’s own theory as to the cause of the deaths, said Kendall.

“To be clear, we will never know exactly what happened in those barns,” stated Kendall, who added ASPCA officials took a representative sample of the carcasses found. The carcasses were in turn examined by state veterinarians, who determined they were “too dried out” to allow for certain forensic tests that may have helped pinpoint a cause of death, the district attorney said.

“Some of the pigs may have died in a manure flood caused by a malfunction of the manure handling system as claimed by Clark. There was evidence of manure flooding in some of the pens. But, I argued at sentencing that the photographic evidence did not show evidence of manure flooding in most of the pens, and that if it could be inferred that most pigs died not of drowning but as a result of abandonment or neglect,” Kendall said.

Kendall said Johnson is both a fair and experienced judge who listened attentively to all of the evidence presented at the sentencing hearing and asked searching questions. “She considered factors that a judge must consider when formulating a fair sentence. I am satisfied with her decision,” he concluded.

The possibility of cruelty came to light when hundreds of pig carcasses were discovered at the Union Township farm on November 8, 2010. The farm had been placed on the real estate market through Long and Foster Real Estate after Clark’s wife, Kerron, took over sole ownership on September 28. Daniel Clark had moved out months earlier and informed state police investigators the pigs actually perished between February and March 2009.

According to an affidavit of probable cause filed by Cpl. Baker, Clark, 47, admitted he experienced a malfunction with his liquid manure system that in turned caused a “die off” of hogs. The malfunction occurred when manure failed to drain into a nearby sludge pool and backed up into the pig barn.

“Clark claims that the system in the lower of two hog barns, backed up and that liquid manure and water flooded out of the barn,” said the affidavit. “Clark related he could not get into the barn to help the pigs, however, he did manage to get some out.”

“Eventually they (the pigs) died of drowning, freezing and hypothermia in Clark’s estimation,” the affidavit further maintained. “After the pigs died, Clark related he failed to clean up the carcasses and simply let the dead animals lay in the barns. He had no explanation as to why he didn’t clean up the dead animals.”

According to attorney Barkdoll, “The basis of Clark’s guilty plea was his failure to call for assistance when he discovered the manure malfunction. Even though the damage was already done, Mr. Clark did all he could to save the pigs. However, in the heat of the moment, he tried to do too much by himself, when he should have called someone for assistance.”

Barkdoll went on to say Clark had been in the process of cleaning up the barns and carcasses for “a long time.” “Unfortunately, Mr. Clark was doing all of this entirely by himself. In retrospect, he should have asked for some help,” Barkdoll added.

On the heels of Kendall and Baker dispelling some untrue statements made during the course of their investigation, Clark’s defense attorney also spoke out on incorrect information reported on the case.

Among the mistruths aired was a statement linked to the blockage of the barn doors by farm equipment. Barkdoll maintained there was never any equipment blocking the doors of the pig barn. The county district attorney previously noted the sole piece of equipment blocking any building on the property was a skidloader parked in front of the farmhouse that was constructed in the 1900s.

In addition, mirroring Kendall’s previous statements, Barkdoll said no evidence exists that any pigs tried to “claw” their way out of the finishing barns. The claw marks reportedly were made by Clark’s dog that stayed in the barn during the winter months.

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