CASSOPOLIS — What amounted to a “torture session” for three animals left locked in a truck outside the Dowagiac Four Winds Casino in early April has resulted in a probation sentence for a Flint area woman.
Sherill Langford, 50, of Davison, Mich., pleaded guilty to three felony animal cruelty charges in late May and was sentenced Friday in Cass County Circuit Court. A plea deal worked out between her attorney and the prosecutor’s office calls for the three felonies to be dismissed and turned into two misdemeanors if she successfully completes her probation.
The incident occurred April 7. Cass Chief Assistant Prosecutor Tiffiny Vohwinkle reported that casino surveillance cameras recorded Langford entering the casino around 8 a.m. that day and not leaving until 6 p.m. when police contacted her about the three dogs in her truck.
“No doubt it was a torture session for the animals,” Vohwinkle said. “They had no water, food or bathroom breaks for those hours. Two of them died an agonizing and horrible death. This is a terrible thing that occurred. Her gambling addiction led to the death of two animals. She needs help with her gambling but she also needs to be punished.”
Langford was sentenced to two years probation, 90 days jail that can be served on tether, 250 hours of community service, $2,134 in fines and costs and $511.95 in restitution for three counts of attempting to kill or torture animals.
If she successfully completes her probation, the three felony convictions will be vacated and reduced to two misdemeanor counts of cruelty/abandonment of animals causing death.
During her probation, she cannot own or have unsupervised care of animals and cannot enter any casino, gamble online or purchase lottery tickets. Her community service is to be done at an animal shelter or animal rescue center. The restitution is to be paid to Cass County Animal Control, which has been caring for the one surviving dog since April.
Defense attorney John English noted that Langford has no criminal record and did not intend to harm the animals, which belonged to her boyfriend. English said she has been going to Gamblers Anonymous. “She has very deep remorse for how the animals died and she has been punishing herself,” he said.
“I feel horrible and stupid and embarrassed to be standing here today,” Langford said. “I have a gambling problem. I love my animals. It was a horrible accident.”
Cass Circuit Judge Mark Herman called the incident a travesty. “You said you had left the window cracked and you had checked on them during the day and you hadn’t,” he said. “I’m sure you have punished yourself over and over. You were entrusted with the care of the animals and you gambled.”
“I believe you are remorseful and that you didn’t intend for this to happen,” he added. “But I am at a loss as to how you could forget they were in the truck. I can’t imagine getting so lost in gambling. I guess that’s what addiction does, it can make a liar out of a saint.”