Dog Fighting: Halifax County Family Headed to Court in March 2014

| by Phyllis M Daugherty

The trial for a family of three arrested for dog fighting and narcotics charges in April 2013 is making its way through the court system and should be heard in March 2014, but local officials say that doesn’t mean dog fighting will end in Halifax County, North Carolina.

In April 2012 Erica Gary, 41; and her son, 20-year-old Zhaqwaun Jevontae Gary, were arrested and charged with two counts of felony dog fighting and a variety of drug charges.

Elton Gary, 44, her husband and Zhaqwaun’s father, was arrested two weeks later on two counts of dog fighting, one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and numerous drug charges, including manufacturing marijuana, felony possession of marijuana and maintaining a vehicle, dwelling or place for controlled substances.

Authorities seized 21 Pit Bulls being raised for fighting and many already badly scarred, as well as 68 marijuana plants from Gary's home at 1045 Stack Powell Road. He was jailed on a $30,000 bond.

Attorney Gilbert Chichester is representing all three defendants, stating while it is rare, it’s not prohibited.

“In this case there’s a husband and wife and son, and the circumstances surrounding each of their cases are similar so certainly one isn’t going to be testifying against the other one trying to shift the burden,” Chichester said. “Though each one has separate defenses.”

Chichester told WRAL that he is engaged in dialogue about the charges against his clients with the office of Halifax County District Attorney Melissa Pelfrey.

“I think good lawyers always keep their options open and look at every aspect of the case on both sides,” Chichester said. “There’s certainly been no decision made about trial or plea, and no plea worked out or anything of that nature.”

The case was investigated by the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Wes Tripp said closing such a case with three arrests does not mean the end of the Sheriff’s Office’s efforts to combat dog fighting.

“It would be safe to say since the last arrest, it’s not eliminated,” Tripp noted. “It’s very secretive.”

Tripp added any leads on possible dog fighting activity are followed, and the fact those operating in this brutal sport do so in darkness means more aggressive and careful law enforcement is needed.

“It makes us use informants more,” Tripp said. “Surveillance equipment will definitely assist us.”

Lead Officer for Halifax County Animal Control Robert Richardson said that tips by the public are the most valuable tool in the fight against pure animal cruelty.

Neighbors and people just walking or driving by can provide information that they are seeing a large number of strange vehicles or people in their community and advise law-enforcement where the fights are happening.

This aids law-enforcement in responding in time to help the animals before they are in a pit fighting for their lives.

Up to a $5,000 reward is offered by The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) for information leading to the arrest and conviction of any person involved in illegal animal fighting. Call 877-TIP-HSUS (877-847-4787). Callers’ identities are protected.

Source: RR Daily Herald, WRAL