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Animal torture case: Prison time for third defendant

Judge sentences Escanaba teen to 18 to 48 months

May 16, 2012
By Jenny Lancour - staff writer ( , Daily Press

MENOMINEE - The third defendant who tortured three cows in Wilson last summer was sentenced to prison during an emotional hearing in Menominee County Probate Court Tuesday.

Chad Allan Meier Jr., 17, of Escanaba, was ordered to spend 18 to 48 months in prison on three counts of aiding and abetting in the killing/torturing of an animal.

Co-defendants Nicholas Michael Leisner, 18, and Peter John Sauve, 18, both of Escanaba, are each serving two-to-four-year prison sentences on three counts of killing/torturing an animal. All three pleaded guilty to their charges and were prosecuted as adults in circuit court.

Article Photos

Seventeen-year-old Chad Allan Meier Jr., at right, weeps after he is sentenced Tuesday to prison on three counts of aiding and abetting in the torture of three cattle last summer. Alongside him at the Menominee County courthouse is his attorney, Steven Benson. (Daily Press photo by Jenny Lancour)

The charges stem from a July 18, 2011, beating of three purebred Angus cattle owned by Gary and Tammy Niarhos. Two pregnant heifers had to be euthanized because of the injuries suffered. A bull recovered from several stab wounds, but will never be able to be used for breeding again.

Gary Niarhos found the injured cattle the next morning when he went to the corral 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 bull suffered a broken jaw, a broken backbone, welts, and approximately 20 knife wounds. The investigation by the Menominee County Sheriff Department revealed the three cattle were confined and beaten in a cattle chute used for vaccinations and artificial insemination. The two heifers had to be put down while the bull survived but can no longer be used for breeding.

Leisner and Suave were arrested following the incident and initially pleaded not guilty on the three felonies. Sauve posted a $1,000 bond and was released from jail on July 12. Leisner was released from jail after his $1,000 bond was posted on July 28. Meier was arrested in early December and released to the custody of his parents. Prior to sentencing on Tuesday, Assistant Prosecutor Bill Merkel asked the court to rule above and beyond the sentencing guidelines. Leisner and Sauve had received sentencings that deviated from the guidelines.

Reasons Merkel cited for requesting a harsher sentence included the loss of property and the trauma for the victims. He added Meier's punishment should be proportionate to the sentencings of Leisner and Sauve.

Tammy Niarhos then read a victim's impact statement on behalf of her family. Her comments were similar to what she had told Leisner and Sauve prior to their sentencings on Feb. 6. She described the torturous beatings as a gruesome act on helpless animals.

"We will never forget the pure evil that took place that night to our animals on our property," she stated, recalling the shock of the injuries the cattle had suffered and how they were mutilated and tortured for fun.

Meier's attorney Steve Benson apologized to the victims on behalf of his client, describing the act as "a horrible situation that got way out of hand."

Benson requested the court impose a county jail sentence on Meier because his case is different from his co-defendant's in that he is charged with "aiding and abetting" in the animal torture.

"In other words, he assisted the other two boys," Benson said. "Chad did play a very different role... he assisted the two."

Benson said Meier ran the animals into the chute and released the cows while Leisner and Sauve were the ones who stabbed the cattle. The attorney added the three were "highly intoxicated."

"These three boys were drunk," Benson said. "This plan was hatched between the three of them."

Benson described Meier as "a good kid" and "a hard worker" and someone who can be a productive member of the community. He asked the court to sentence Meier to the county jail or boot camp but not prison.

"Prison is not the place for Chad," the attorney said.

In an emotional statement to the court, Meier apologized to the Niarhos couple and said, "There are no words to change what happened... I should have been thinking about prom and graduation."



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