Collier County man sentenced to 90 days in jail, 5 years probation for animal cruelty

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An Immokalee man was sentenced to 90 days in jail, five years probation as well as 100 hours of community service after he was found guilty of aggravated animal cruelty, according to State Attorney Amira D. Fox. He will also pay court costs and restitution

Robert David Starkweather, 52, was found guilty on 12 felony counts of aggravated animal cruelty on Jan. 31, 2020 following a four-day trial in Hendry County.

Starkweather’s motions for a new trial, arrest of judgment and judgment of acquittal were all denied Friday morning by the Honorable Judge James Sloan.

The State Attorney’s Office requested a sentence of 45 months in prison followed by five years of probation as well as adjudication of guilt on each count. They also asked the
sentence to include a condition of probation that Starkweather not be allowed to possess or care for cattle or other animals, plus court costs, and restitution.

Sloan found Starkweather guilty on two of the counts and withheld adjudication on the remaining counts.

Starkweather must report all fields where he has cattle so that agriculture units can check the pastures quarterly to report any issues to probation.

During late 2017 and early 2018, Starkweather owned 144 cows and calves that he had in a pasture off Ft. Denaud Road in LaBelle. In March 2018, the Hendry County Sheriff’s Office Agricultural Crimes Unit responded to the pasture after getting a report about a downed cow. Deputies found 13 dead cows and 131 emaciated cows and calves at the scene.

During the trial, evidence showed Starkweather failed to provide adequate food, water and medication to the animals. He also ignored signs over a four-month period that showed the cows were in distress and suffering from malnutrition.

The animals were taken by the Hendry County Sheriff’s Office.

The State Attorney’s Office filed 131 counts involving animal cruelty and animal abuse, one charge for each living animal. There were an additional 13 counts filed for improper disposal of a dead animal.

The jury was presented photos of every animal found on the property. After four hours of deliberation, they returned the guilty verdict for the 12 felony counts of aggravated animal cruelty.

Assistant State Attorney Kimberlee Mitton prosecuted the case.

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