HANCOCK COUNTY — Two people tasked to care for more than 100 animals on a county farm neglected nearly all of them, causing more than three dozen to die, an official investigation has determined. The Hancock County Prosecutor’s Office has officially charged two Wilkinson people in connection with the farm animal abuse discovered in early January.
Tina L. Gibson, 59, 10000 block of E. Ind. 234, Wilkinson, has been charged with six different Class A misdemeanor counts of cruelty to an animal. Trinton D. Horton-Gibson, 18, 10000 block of E. Ind. 234, Wilkinson, is facing five different Class A misdemeanor counts of cruelty to an animal. Class A misdemeanors each carry a maximum penalty of up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $5,000.
Prosecutor Brent Eaton has been working with officials from Greenfield Hancock Animal Management and the Shirley Police Department to investigate the case and determine who was responsible for caring for the animals. The case against Gibson and Horton-Gibson was officially opened in Hancock County Superior Court 2 late last week. Both defendants have been ordered to appear for an initial hearing at 9 a.m. Thursday, March 2.
“There are 11 charges because that is what we believe we can prove,” Eaton said in an email to the Daily Reporter. “The statutes are specific.”
During the investigation, officials say nearly 100 animals were surrendered to Greenfield Hancock Animal Management as well as rescue organizations Oinking Acres Farm and A Critter’s Chance. Officials with Oinking Acres Farm Rescue and Sanctuary out of Brownsburg told the Daily Reporter they saved dozens of abused goats, cattle, mules, chickens and more. Those with the rescue groups say they witnessed dozens of animals dead, injured or starved on the county farm.
According to a probable cause affidavit, officials with the SPD interviewed the two defendants on their property, where the abuse occurred, Jan. 29 as part of a followup investigation into the treatment, health, living conditions and well-being of the approximate 110-115 animals prior to being voluntarily turned over.
The officers noted in the probable cause affidavit that Gibson seemed to be physically able to move and seemed to be physically able to access any part of the property if need be. The house, the officers reported, had “a very strong odor of what I would describe as animal urine” the officer wrote, and officials noticed an abnormal amount of large flies buzzing around.
The affidavit stated that Gibson said she was in charge of the chickens, hens, roosters, geese and cats. In addition to the dead, dying and sick animals seized, GHAM Officer Heather Hamilton stated in a supplemental narrative that there were 31 hens who were underweight and had frostbite.
Horton-Gibson told officials he had not checked on the animals for “a couple weeks” during a Jan. 4 interview, according to the court documents.
Officials also noted in the affidavit that the buildings, where animals were to stay, were mostly in disrepair and falling down, creating a safety hazard for any animal or human who entered them. An officer stated he viewed feces throughout the entire property, along with mold-ridden hay and many safety hazards made the property unsuitable for raising animals.
Officials first became aware of the abuse when an alert bus driver with Eastern Hancock School Corporation who drove past the property four times a day contacted officials. She told them dead animals on the farm were in full view of her and the students on the bus, going back as far as November 2022, the report stated. The woman reported seeing “multiple deceased and decaying animals” while driving by.