COLUMBIA CITY — The couple facing charges for neglecting horses on their Whitley County property will make their first court appearance next month.

John and Deborah Thomas, of South Whitley, are scheduled to have an arraignment on their charges in Whitley Superior Court on March 2, according to Whitley County Prosecuting Attorney D.J. Sigler.

A total of 10 horses were rescued from the couple’s property in late January, many malnourished or severely underweight. One animal had to be euthanized.

The investigation revealed that several horses were severely malnourished and dehydrated and were roaming in a lot littered with trash and debris that was deemed unsafe.

The seized horses were turned over to Shadarobah Horse Rescue in Allen County. Michelle Bobay, a worker at Shadarobah, said one animal, a Belgian draft horse that normally weighs about 2,000 pounds clocked in at only 1,200 pounds.

Bobay said veterinarians thought that particular horse had grain stuck in its throat, but instead, they had to extract sticks, bark and other debris from its throat. She said the horse was trying to eat anything it could to survive.

The pair is expected to be charged with neglect of a vertebrate animal – a misdemeanor – according to Sigler. He noted because the Thomases are an elderly couple, law enforcement is more concerned with the horses’ welfare now than punishing the pair.

“It was more about making sure we got these animals cared for,” said Sigler. “Our big focus was getting these animals in someone else’s care as soon as possible.”

The Thomases are scheduled to have their first court appearance – an arraignment on their charges – on March 2.

In other Courthouse action, the Whitley Circuit Court:

• Held a pre-trial conference in the case of Marty D. Collins. His case was continued until March 16.

• Appointed Anthony Churchward as public defender in the case of Todi J. Smith.

• Appointed Anthony Churchward as public defender for Chase A. Richards, who is accused of theft and burglary in October of 2019. Richard’s next hearing was scheduled for March 9.

• Revoked 800 days of a sentence in a case involving Paige A. Herendeen. Herendeen allegedly was caught in possession of meth amphetamine in Noble County. She has already been in jail about 6 ½ months on the charge, her attorney noted.

• Held a pre-trial conference in the case of Melany J. Moran. A continuance was granted until March 16.

• Held a hearing on violation of home detention for Damon H. Collier. Collier is accused of being in possession of pornographic materials, a violation of his probation conditions. Collier’s mother testified on his behalf, asking for leniency, because she had recently broken her wrist, and needed her son around her home to help. “Damon’s a good kid, he’s just a little slow in the head,” she told the court. Collier’s home detention was revoked and he was sentenced to 30 days in Whitley County Jail. A pre-trial conference in the case was scheduled for March 23.

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