Charges refiled in cattle marking incident
January 25, 2024
Charges have been refiled for the case in which two ranchers are accused of using bleach to paint markings, including drawings of penises, on a total of 189 cows and six bulls belonging to their neighbor.
Father-son duo Sean and Tucker Carroll claimed their actions were intended to bring their neighbor's attention to the problem of broken fences that weren't being fixed quickly enough.
The markings led to an estimated loss in value for the cattle of $141,750.
The original case was filed last fall, but later dismissed when the 6th Judicial Circuit Court found that the testimony given in court only pertained to the value loss of the property and did not provide testimony of the cost of restoring the injured property, as required by the statute.
The Crook County Sheriff's Office gathered additional evidence and submitted it to the Crook County Attorney's office for consideration, following which the Crook County Attorney refiled the charges against the defendants.
According to the affidavit of probable cause, the Sheriff's Office received a complaint from a county rancher on June 21, 2023 stating that a neighbor had "bleached" his cows.
The alleged victim stated that his employee noticed cattle had escaped their pasture and were on Sean Carroll's land. According to court documents, two witnesses observed and took photographs of the corral, which was full of cattle that Carroll was "marking" with bleach while two other men were helping push the cattle through the alley and chute.
Pictures were taken the next day, when the cattle were found back in the victim's pasture. They showed heifers that had been bleached all along their back; some had marks around their face and one had, according to the affidavit, "what appeared to be an attempt at drawing a penis on her ribs".
The victim enquired about criminal charges for the loss of value of his cattle, which he planned to sell as bred heifers. The victim explained the markings could drastically decrease their value.
On July 3, the deputy returned to the ranch with a Wyoming livestock investigator and two Wyoming brand inspectors. The brand inspectors verified that all the cattle belonged to the victim and noted 189 heifers and six bulls with bleach marks.
The cattle were also inspected by a veterinarian for injuries resulting from the bleach because some of the initial pictures showed a paste-like residue that indicated it was mixed very thick. Few instances of skin irritation or damage were found, however, and no eye damage.
According to the deputy's report, the markings ranged from a football-sized spot on the back, to marks all over the face and around the eyes, all the way down the spine and several penis-shaped drawings.
A local cattle dealer, who sells up to 40,000 head of bred heifers every year, suggested that the markings might lower the price by between $500 and $700 per head.
After speaking with several buyers, the dealer later provided valuations for the heifers of $2600 per head in normal condition but $1850 per head with the markings. With these numbers, the total loss for the 189 heifers would be $141,750.
The deputy spoke with Sean Carroll, who allegedly stated that he has leased the ranch since 2014 but, over the last few years, the number of the victim's cows that get through the fence has increased to the point there will be "hundreds of cows out" at a time.
Carroll stated that he finds it frustrating when he calls the victim to let him know and is met with a reaction that is "laid back like it's not a big deal". Carroll allegedly admitted the fence is old and in poor condition, but said that they try to fix problems when they see them.
According to court reports, Carroll admitted that he had decided it was time to get the victim's attention so, with his son, Tucker, and another man (who later stated that he was simply helping out and did not know what was happening, which was confirmed by both Carrolls), he used the bleach dye and "marked them up pretty good".
Tucker confirmed the story, according to court reports. He stated that the idea was to make a statement, because "enough was enough".
Patrick Sean Carroll now faces a felony count of property destruction and defacement and one felony count of conspiracy to commit property destruction and defacement.
Both counts carry maximum penalties of ten years of incarceration, a $10,000 fine or both.
Tucker Carroll faces the same two charges, as well as one of aiding property destruction and defacement. This third charge carries the same penalty.