By: Tammy Curtis, Managing Editor
Tracy Allen Toller, 50,and Heidi Holland, 45, of Williford, pled guilty on Aug. 1 in Randolph County Circuit Court on a 2021 Sharp County case of Felony Aggravated Cruelty to animals. The Class D Felony was prosecuted with 18 misdemeanor counts of Cruelty to Animals for their role in the Aug. 22, 2021 crime.
The couple were sentenced by Judge Rob Ratton to four years of supervised probation, a $1000 fine and $715 in court and public defender fees on the charges. They were both credited with 290 days jail time on the offenses. Both are required to immediately begin making payments at $100 per month on the fines. Prosecuting Attorney Ryan Cooper prosecuted the crimes for the Third Judicial District.
The Williford couple were sought for nearly two months before their arrest for one of the most horrendous acts of animal cruelty this news agency has ever reported. The crimes took place during the hottest part of the summer.
A neighbor made Toller’s landlord aware of a horrible smell coming from the home located at 201 Hail Avenue in Williford. After looking through the window, the neighbor told the property owners she witnessed two dogs dead within the home.
On Aug. 22 Sharp County Deputy Marc Boyd made his way to the home after being contacted by the landlord’s girlfriend about the dead dogs. The neighbor who first witnessed the dead dogs confronted Toller. At that time Toller had vacated the house and moved in with Holland, at his aunt’s home a couple of blocks away. Toller initially told the neighbor someone had broken into the home and killed two of his dogs.
Boyd said in his Probable Cause Affidavit filed on Sept. 24 that after he arrived to do the welfare check at the home and saw no evidence of a break in, “I peered into the front window and saw two big dogs lying dead on the floor. I heard barking coming from inside the home. I broke a small window on the front to gain entrance. The whole house smelled of ammonia. The temperature was well over 100 degrees in the house. All the windows and doors were shut.”
Upon entering the home, Boyd witnessed two smaller dogs dead by the front door. He also heard a kitten crying from inside a padlocked room. After kicking in the door, he freed the kitten. In the kitchen of the home, he found two large dogs lying back to back. They were also dead. When entering the living room, he witnessed a dead dog on the couch and a large dead dog lying under the window. “All of the dead dogs were in different states of decomposition,” Boyd explained. This led him to believe they all died at various times. “Some of the animals had been partially cannibalized by other animals attempting to stay alive,” he explained of the horror he witnessed in the feces covered home.
Three small dogs were left alive inside with the smallest having ribs exposed from malnutrition and dehydration. In the back yard of the home were seven more dogs in a chain link fence without proper food or water.
Boyd contacted a local rescue agency and the remaining ten dogs were transported to the facility for care and vetting.
The couple were initially arrested on the crimes on Oct. 14, 2021 and booked into the Sharp County Detention Center. Cooper added the felony Aggravated Cruelty to Animals charge to on Dec. 21, 2021.