The slick lizards have bad neighbors
NAUVOO, Alabama––The reputed cockfighting capital of Alabama, on May 27, 2023 hosted a Memorial Day weekend surprise visit from the Showing Animals Respect & Kindness [SHARK] drone team.
Tipped off to a cockfight droned in progress at 44 Cagle Drive, Nauvoo, Alabama, Walker County sheriff’s deputies “went out and shut this fight down,” SHARK founder Steve Hindi emailed to ANIMALS 24-7.
“The cockfight was broken up and countless lives were saved from needless death for human entertainment. Walker County Sheriff Nick Smith did his job today,” Hindi exulted.
100 times more gamecocks than people
Hindi sent ANIMALS 24-7 a screenshot of a social media post in which a cockfighter at the scene complained that everyone in attendance was cited, paid a fine, and left.
Hardly anyone, including Hindi, who promised to return to Nauvoo as necessary, imagines that interrupting one cockfight will stop cockfighting, let alone gamefowl breeding and exports, in a community with perhaps 100 times more gamecocks than people.
Nauvoo may also have more pit bulls than people. Pit bulls have contributed somewhat to reducing the Nauvoo human population from 284 in 2000 to just 221 in the most recent U.S. census.
The Daily Mountain Chicken
Despite that, the Daily Mountain Eagle of nearby Jasper, Alabama, pays conspicuously less investigative attention to either cockfighting or pit bulls running amok than ANIMALS 24-7, SHARK, Animal Wellness Action, or even the Humane Farming Association, involved behind the scenes.
The listed owner of 44 Cagle Drive is Tony O’Brien, who lives on Walker Circle, a short distance to the east, a stone’s throw or two away from Slick Lizard Farms, just off of Slick Lizard Road.
O’Brien’s Facebook page also displays gamecocks.
“Jerry Adkins of Slick Lizard Farms told a Filipino television broadcaster that he sells 6,000 birds a year to Mexico alone,” alleged then-Animal Wellness Action executive director Marty Irby in June 2020.
The Guam connection
Animal Wellness Action at that time, based on “almost 2,500 pages of avian shipping records from November 2016 to September 2019,” identified “Adkins, Royce Flores, and the late Jason Campbell from Nauvoo in Walker County” as three of the leading exporters of gamefowl from the continental U.S. to Guam.
Flores alone exported to Guam about 400 of the 750 gamecocks involved in the identified transactions, Animal Wellness Action said.
Guam is a U.S. territory within which cockfighting is as illegal as it is in Alabama and all other U.S. states and territories.
Flores apparently no longer lives at his former address on County Road 59, just north of Nauvoo, but two more Nauvoo names have more recently surfaced in connection to cockfighting and the gamefowl traffic: Chris and Carol Nesmith, whose Blackwater Game Farm also happens to be on Slick Lizard Road.
Yet another major Nauvoo exporter of gamefowl was Barry C. Scoles. Scoles, who died at age 45 in 2015, operated the Sharpshooter Game Farm, on––you guessed it––Slick Lizard Road.
Dog attack victim Ruthie Mae Brown
The cluster of cockfighting activity around Cagle Drive and Slick Lizard Road is about two-and-a-half miles from Jagger Road, where Ruthie Mae Brown, 36, a mother of four, was killed in an allegedly unwitnessed pack dog attack at about 2:00 p.m. on October 19, 2020.
Walker County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson T.J. Armstrong told Caroline Warnock of AL.com Brown, of Jasper, “was the victim of an attack from several dogs,” some of whom were captured at the scene.
Sheriff Nick Smith confirmed to the Daily Mountain Eagle that the attack was under investigation, but did not say how many dogs were involved or what breed of dog they were, but Warnock learned that “investigators believe there were at least five dogs.”
ABC 13/40 news video indicates that the dogs were pit bulls.
“Dogs all had owners”
“Smith also stated that the dogs all had owners and were not strays,” Warnock reported. “One owner has already come forward to claim two of the dogs from the attack,” Warnock wrote, “and officers were working to capture at least three more. The two dogs who were captured will be brought to the Walker County Humane Society,” Smith told her.
Attention to Ruthie Mae Brown’s death might have died there, except that her mother, Paula Holleman, retained the Stephens & Stephens law firm in Jasper to sue the dog owners, identified as Dana Hopper and Daniel Key.
The case was reportedly filed on November 11, 2020, in the Walker County Circuit Court.
Second victim survived
In February 2023 another woman was attacked by dogs nearby, on 6th Avenue, Carbon Hill, Nauvoo.
Remembering Ruthie Mae Brown, CBS-42 reporter Laura Laughead learned from Holleman’s lawyer, Charles Stephens Jr., that “The case has been delayed due to several complications. The Walker County Sheriff’s Office investigated the possibility of criminal charges being brought against the owner of the dogs,” Stephens Jr. said.
“A stay of action was requested by the owner/defendant during this process,” Stephens Jr. continued. “During 2022, the defendant’s attorney was a candidate for District Attorney of Cullman County and was ultimately elected. Currently the defendant has not procured alternate counsel to represent her in this matter.
“No fault of the parties or the court”
“In February of 2023, one of the attorneys representing the Estate of Ruthie Mae Brown took a position in the Walker County District Attorney’s Office. Due to these issues, the case has been delayed at no fault of the parties or the Court,” Stephens Jr. said.
“We are currently under an Order of the Court to mediate the case in an attempt to settle the matter out of Court,” Stephens Jr. added. “However, as the Defendant is without counsel, this process is being delayed as well.”
Laughhead has “reached out to the Walker County District Attorney’s Office and the Walker County Sheriff’s Office multiple times for an update on the case,” she said, “but never heard back.”
Neither has the Daily Mountain Eagle reported a word about Ruthie Mae Brown since immediately after her death.
Nixon did not visit Leslie County for a cockfight
The Showing Animals Respect & Kindness drone team further celebrated the Memorial Day weekend by droning and reporting to law enforcement a cockfight in Leslie County, Kentucky, a locale made lastingly notorious first by the Hurricane Creek coal mine disaster in 1970, which killed 38 people, and then again in July 1978 as the scene of Richard Nixon’s first public appearance since resigning as U.S. president four years earlier.
The scandal, though, was not that Nixon came to dedicate a recreation facility named for him, but rather that then-county judge-executive C. Allen Muncy claimed that inviting Nixon was why he was later convicted of election fraud.
Hindi told ANIMALS 24-7 that Kentucky State Trooper Post 13 claimed to have broken up the Leslie County cockfight, but said he had been unable to obtain any details.
Gamefowl breeders charged in Oklahoma
Meanwhile in Oklahoma, where both Showing Animals Respect & Kindness and Animal Wellness Action have agitated for years for effective law enforcement against cockfighting and gamefowl breeders, Oklahoma County district attorney Vicki Behenna on May 22, 2023 filed extensive related charges against Ellie Grino, 50, and his wife Jannine Yee, 45.
Included, reported Chris Yu of News9, a CBS affiliate in Oklahoma City, are one count each of keeping a place, equipment or facility to be used in permitting cockfighting, 50 counts each of possession of birds with the intent to engage in a cockfight, and eight counts of cruelty to animals.
Case began with alleged drunk driving
“According to the incident report from the Oklahoma City Police Department,” Yu reported, “a McLoud police officer arrested Grino on April 9, 2023 for driving under the influence. Police said Grino had fighting spurs inside his vehicle, along with wooden transport boxes for roosters. Grino told law enforcement that he had roosters used for fighting, the incident report said.
“A McLoud officer then requested an Oklahoma City police officer to go to Grino’s home on Florence Avenue in Newalla,” Yu continued, “to see if there was cockfighting there, according to the incident report.
“After arriving on scene, the Oklahoma City officer contacted Oklahoma City Animal Welfare because there were many roosters in the back of the property tied to stakes, the incident report said.”
Fifty roosters, 43 hens, & 158 eggs
“Grino’s wife, Yee, refused to allow officers to search the property,” Yu added.
“After police obtained a search warrant the next day, the Oklahoma City Animal Welfare investigator found vitamins, supplements and testosterone used for roosters and ‘regularly seen with cockfighting,’ according to the probable cause affidavit,” along with an extensive collection of cockfighting periodicals, how-to literature, and paraphernalia, Yu summarized.
“The affidavit said there were nine pairs of gaffs that police confiscated from Grino,” Yu recounted. Also confiscated were “50 roosters, 43 hens and 158 eggs from the property, according to the affidavit.”
“We’ve been urging Oklahoma to bust breeders for years”
Hindi told ANIMALS 24-7 that the Grino/Yee bust is particularly significant, because “We’ve been after the Oklahoma authorities to start going after the gamefowl breeders for years, and this is the first time they actually did.”
The Oklahoma bust followed an April 30, 2023 raid by Tulare County, California sheriff’s deputies that according to KFSN, an ABC affiliate in Fresno, brought the arrests of “several suspects,” impoundment of nine roosters, and seizure of 25 cockfighting gaffs.
“A large group of vehicles and people were found inside a grove and those involved were detained and their vehicles were towed,” KFSN said.