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Fox Den couple face charges

A pair of Fox Den property owners face nearly 33 years in jail for animal cruelty charges. Charles Wade Sexton, 70, and his wife, Sylvia Jeane Sexton, 68, both of a Tazewell Pike address, were charged and arrested with a combined 33 counts of cruelty to animals by the Knox County Sheriff’s Office Wednesday, July 5.

Sheriff’s deputies arrested the pair based on evidence secured by Knox County Animal Control officers, who had obtained a search warrant for the couple’s 130 Champion’s Point residence following a “cat bite” complaint by a neighbor.

Dave Head, director of Knox County Animal Control, said concerning what led to the investigation, that his department has to follow the same rules as the Sheriff’s Department.

“We have to, just like the Sheriff’s Department,” Head said, “we have to have Probable Cause to go into a residence, otherwise we can’t go in it. We have a complaint and once officers have observed what they [need] from the complaint, because we were going after a ‘bite cat.’ … Once we observed this, then we had to convince the D.-A. that we had Probable Cause, that there might be dead animals in the house. Once we had Probable Cause, the D.A. got us a search warrant for five days and we spent four days in there doing the collection of evidence and that type of stuff.”

Head added that his crew found 26 dead animals in the Fox Den residence and later found seven dead animals in the Tazewell Pike site.

According to the warrants issued by the Knox County Attorney’s General office: “The defendant committed the offense of cruelty to animals, in violation of TCA Sec. 39-14-202. … Upon entry into the defendant’s residence [at 130 Champions Point], affiant observed 11 mummified feline bodies, five decomposing feline bodies and 10 skeletal feline remains. Pursuant to investigation the animals were not provided proper food, water and the animals were confined in a cruel manner. There are numerous alive abused felines still in the residence” as of Friday, July 7.

Head said that efforts by his department to capture the remaining live animals were ongoing.

“We did catch the biting cat,” Head said. “The Sextons have signed over all the other live animals. We’re trying to catch them, maintain them, give them medical treatment and that kind of stuff. We still have animal traps in there and we are encouraging people not to feed the cats and not to try and catch them. We are still trying to catch them. Do not feed those cats.”

Head added that once the couple has been arraigned they would probably plea-bargain the charges out.

“I’ve been in this field for twenty-five years,” Head said, “the most [time] I’ve seen [served] is about four months.”

Head added, “If we’re lucky, she’ll get a year. We’re hoping for mandatory counseling, psychological evaluation and not to own any more pets. That’s what we’re hoping for.”

Head said that the Tazewell Pike residence produced similar, though not as quantified, results as the Fox Den home prompting Knox County to condemn the property.

Town of Farragut Community Development Director Ruth Hawk said the process in Farragut is different.

Hawk said that based on the Blighted or Deteriorated Properties Ordinance, which was approved by the Farragut Board of Mayor and Aldermen in March 2005, the matter has to go before the Vacant Properties Review Commission.

“Vacant Properties Review Commission has to review the complaint,” Hawk said, “and they have to make recommendations to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.”

Hawk added that John Householder, with Codes Enforcement, had been inside the house and as a result of his investigation, the town has issued the Sextons a deadline of July 31 to remediate the problems.

If the problems have not been fixed, then it goes back before the Commis-sion Aug. 8 and possibly on to Town Attorney Tom Hale for litigation.

“It’s not a cut and dried, this is going to happen overnight situation,” Hawk said about the issue.

Today, the Sextons are out on bond waiting their Aug. 29 trial date in General Sessions Court.


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