MENOMINEE - Two Escanaba teens pleaded guilty this week to torturing/killing three cattle on a Wilson farm last summer, according to the Menominee County prosecutor. A third suspect was arraigned in circuit court Thursday and pleaded not guilty.
Nicholas Michael Leisner, 18, and Peter John Sauve, 17, were arrested after two Angus heifers and a bull were found beaten on the farm of Gary and Tammy Niarhos on July 17.
The two heifers, both pregnant, were so badly injured they had to be euthanized. "Bubs," the two-year-old bull, recovered but because of the extent of its injuries, can no longer be used for breeding, said Gary Niarhos this morning. He declined to say much about the case until sentences are handed down.
Following their arrests, both Leisner and Sauve were each charged as adults with three felony counts of torturing/killing an animal. A two-day trial was scheduled for February. Instead, each pleaded guilty to the three charges during a joint hearing in circuit court on Monday, said Prosecutor Dan Hass.
Sentencing for Leisner and Sauve has been scheduled for 1 p.m. on Feb. 6. Each felony carries a maximum punishment of four years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Both defendants remain free on bond.
Following their arrests by Menominee County Sheriff deputies, Leisner and Sauve were lodged in the county jail. Sauve posted a $1,000 bond the day after his arrest and was released from jail on July 19. Leisner was released from jail after his $1,000 bond was posted on July 28.
A third suspect, a 16-year-old juvenile from Escanaba, now 17, was originally petitioned into Delta County Probate Court because of his alleged role in the animal beating. The case later switched to Menominee County where Chad Meier Jr. is being charged as an adult. He pleaded not guilty in circuit court Thursday on three felony counts of torturing/killing an animal. Meier's pretrial is set for Jan. 18.
On the night the cattle were beaten, the three defendants were with two girls at a camp neighboring the Niarhos farm. Misdemeanor charges of trespassing at the Niarhos farm and illegal entry to the camp (pursued by one of the camp owners) were dropped with the consent of the victims, explained Hass this morning.
According to Gary Niarhos, the cattle were insured and worth about $4,000 each, not including the unborn calves. Niarhos found the cattle on the morning of July 17 when he went to feed them.
One heifer was standing with internal organs hanging outside its body. The other heifer's body was also punctured and manure was coming out from the wound. The 1,400-pound bull suffered a broken jaw, a broken backbone, welts, and approximately 20 knife wounds, the cattleman said.
According to Menominee County Sheriff Kenny Marks, the investigation revealed the cattle were stabbed several times. He explained it appeared the teens had allegedly corralled the three animals into a cattle shoot, which is used for vaccinations, and then tortured the cattle.
A metal bar, a three-foot jack handle, and a shovel with the end broken off, were found at the scene. Footprints led deputies to the nearby camp. The suspects had fled in a vehicle and were later apprehended.
- - -
Jenny Lancour, (906) 786-2021, ext. 143, email@example.com