Cockfighting: KY Man and Son Plead Guilty to Running One of the Largest Cockfighting Rings in the U.S.

| by Phyllis M Daugherty

On Thursday, Floyd County resident Walter Dale Stumbo, 52, and his son, Joshua Stumbo 26, plead guilty to a charge of conspiracy to sponsor or exhibit an animal in a fighting venture and conduct an illegal gambling business, the Lexington Herald-Leader reports.

On May 6, Walter Dale Stumbo, Sonya Stumbo, his wife; and their son, Joshua Dale Stumbo, all of Floyd  County, were charged with operating one of the largest, most lucrative cockfighting rings in the country, according to

The three allegedly helped run the Big Blue Sportsmen's Club at McDowell, KY, featuring arena-style seats, multiple fighting pits, and a full-service restaurant, said a federal investigator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

WFPL and Kentucky Public Radio reported that the Stumbos are "distant cousins" of Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo, 63, a Democrat from Prestonsburg, who told the station he has not attended a cockfight in about 35 years.

The Club reportedly had more than 6,000 members on file, according to one participant, Investigator Stan Wojtkonski said in an affidavit.  During the year-long investigation, vehicles from as far away as Michigan, Illinois and Maryland brought attendees to the matches, he said.

Two undercover investigators from Virginia posed as gamecock owners and attended a number of fights at the Big Blue pit beginning in early 2013, according to a court document.

The Club was shut down after it was raided in May, when the Stumbo arrests were made.

Walter Dale Stumbo also plead guilty on July 24 to five counts of transporting roosters and gaffs (sharp knives which are attached to the feet of fighting roosters) across the state line from Virginia to the Big Blue club, according to the Herald-Leader.

 “Birds are stabbed, slashed open, eviscerated, and partially decapitated," Wojtkonski said in his affidavit.

Walter Dale Stumbo and Joshua Dale Stumbo are scheduled for sentencing in October, according to the Herald-Leader.

Each faces up to 55 years in federal prison, according to U.S. Attorney Timothy Heaphy of Virginia.

 In a phone interview Monday with Kentucky Public Radio, House Speaker Greg Stumbo said he felt sorry for his cousin, Walter Dale Stumbo, WFPL reports.

"I feel bad for Dale," Stumbo said. "He obviously engaged in conduct which has been deemed illegal. And each time you do that, you're subject to get caught. And he now has to pay the price for his actions."

The federal government is asking for forfeiture in the amount of $905,000, representing the alleged proceeds of illegal activity. The amount will be decided by the court as part of the sentencing, said defense attorney Mark Wohlander, who represents Walter Dale Stumbo.

Sonya Stumbo, 51, plead not guilty and will stand trial for the charges against her.

Wojtkonski said cockfighting is a felony in Virginia, so a number of residents crossed the state line to fight their birds in Kentucky, where it is a misdemeanor; but the transport of the birds with the intent to fight them resulted in federal conspiracy charges.

Sources: Kentucky, WFPL