Defense request delays dog owner’s search for justice
Post Independent Staff
A political sideshow about alleged prosecutorial bias is receiving much of the attention in a New Castle criminal case. But at its core, the case is about a “gentle giant” of a dog named Biscuit who was shot to death.
Biscuit’s owner, Valerie Hamrick, is frustrated because her quest for justice is being delayed by a debate over who should prosecute the defendant.
“It’s making closure on that case harder to get to,” Valerie Hamrick said Monday, fighting back tears over the loss of her pet Great Pyrenees as she spoke.
Hamrick also said she hasn’t heard the District Attorney’s Office say anything bad about defense attorney Jeff Cheney, who worries that possible bias against him by DA Colleen Truden and her staff may hurt his client, defendant Ken Newton.
“It’s always been just about the case,” Hamrick said after watching a hearing over Cheney’s request for a special prosecutor.
Newton, 50, is accused of a misdemeanor charge of cruelty to animals, and felony charges of tampering with physical evidence and criminal mischief.
Authorities say Newton shot Biscuit and then buried him in a makeshift grave without telling Hamrick. Newton and Hamrick are neighbors up Main Elk Creek Road outside New Castle.
The incident reportedly may have occurred after Biscuit entered Newton’s yard and gotten in a fight with his dog.
Hamrick said her dog was known as a “gentle giant” and a “sloth.” She said Biscuit was like a family member, and the third generation of Great Pyrenees dogs she has owned. But Hamrick, who also keeps other animals on her property, said she hesitates to look for a successor to Biscuit while the Newton case remains unresolved.
“I can’t dream of getting another dog until this is closed. I fear for all my animals,” she said.
While Cheney worries about Newton getting treated fairly, Hamrick worries about how the prosecution of the case may suffer if a prosecutor from outside the area is appointed to handle it. She fears a special prosecutor might not have as much interest in the case or time to devote to it.
The special prosecution request also is taking up more of Hamrick’s time as it delays proceedings regarding the shooting itself. Hamrick now has attended three court hearings held in connection with the request. A fourth court date on the matter has been set for Dec. 22.
Cheney has declined to give interviews on the case while it is still active, and said he also would advise Newton not to comment.
At a time when Truden is headed to a recall vote, Hamrick expressed satisfaction Monday over the DA office’s handling of the case. She said prosecutors have been thorough, and have kept her abreast of proceedings.
“This office has been very good at explaining what’s going on,” Hamrick said.
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Five candidates are running for three seats on the Garfield Re-2 school board this year.