A week after Guilford County prosecutors declined to pursue felony charges against the former county animal shelter director, Sheriff BJ Barnes was back before the cameras to announce new charges, and with a new ally at his side.
Barnes announced yesterday that former shelter director Marsha Williams has been served with five new misdemeanor citations for animal neglect.
He made the announcement with North Carolina’s First Lady, Ann McCrory, sitting next to him, and, next to her, Guilford County Board of Commissioners chairman Hank Henning.
Barnes was critical of the district attorney’s decision to not pursue felony animal cruelty charges against Williams and other two other former staff members he says were responsible for “horrendous” conditions at the shelter.
McCrory said she supports the effort and asked the district attorney to reconsider prosecution of the case.
On November 1, the district attorney’s office said there wasn’t enough evidence to pursue criminal charges against the former Guilford County Animal Shelter employees who had been charged after an investigation by the sheriff’s office.
Similar charges have been filed, and are still pending, against Williams and two other employees of the shelter in Davidson County, which was also operated by the nonprofit group United Animal Coalition.
In Guilford County, Sheriff deputies spent several months investigating allegations of animal abuse, mismanagement of funds and potential drug violations.
But officials in the district attorney’s office said the evidence to pursue cruelty charges was insufficient, showing a “systemic failure,” but pointing to no particular culprits who could be held responsible.
Sheriff Barnes voiced displeasure with that decision when it was made.
And yesterday, according to the Greensboro News & Record, he insisted the charges should be pursued, at least against the shelter director.
“Marsha Williams, as the manager, was in complete control. There was no decision made, live or die, without her being involved in the process,” he said.
Barnes also requested the cases in the two counties be consolidated, and be prosecuted in Davidson County.
McCrory, an animal rights advocate, said she’d requested to meet with Barnes to discuss the charges and show support for the case.
“This went beyond anything I’ve ever heard of in my life,” she said. “It’s basically torture. It’s beyond me that the Davidson County district attorney is going to prosecute. If that person has enough to charge and make a case … why don’t we have that in Guilford County?”
(Sheriff BJ Barnes, left, First Lady Ann McCrory, and Guilford County Board of Commissioners chairman Hank Henning; photo by Andrew Krech / Greensboro News & Record)