Jan. 26—COAL GROVE — Police said a call to their department over puppies, which were supposedly dropped at a home in frigid temperatures last week, led to a series of changing stories and, ultimately, criminal charges for the caller and his wife.
Jordan Venatter, 23, and Judith Turvey, 23, who live on Fernwood Drive in Coal Grove, have been charged with cruelty to animals and obstructing official business, following an incident that began on Jan. 15.
On that date, Sgt. Steven Woodyard was dispatched to the home of Venatter and Turvey after Venatter had contacted dispatch multiple times that evening to follow up on a report that four puppies had been dumped outside his residence.
According to the police report, Woodyard said he went to the location and observed Venatter outside the home. He told he was told the puppies had been dropped outside the residence and were under a van.
The officer said Venatter then pulled two of the puppies, which were shivering and cold, from under the vehicle and immediately placed them in his cruiser. Jadia Smith, a cadet accompanying Woodyard, was then able to pull a third puppy from under the van.
Woodyard said Venatter was unable to locate the fourth puppy and told him it had been under the van earlier. Woodyard said he then told Venatter that the dog may have jumped into the undercarriage of the van to stay warm in the 17-degree weather.
Venatter then popped the hood on the vehicle and the puppy was found sitting next to the engine, Woodyard said.
With all puppies in the cruiser, Woodyard then contacted Denise Paulus, the director of the Lawrence County Animal Shelter, who told him the animals would not survive outside in those temperatures.
He said Paulus agreed to meet him at the shelter, which was closed for the evening, and she took them in that night.
While the situation with the puppies' safety was resolved, information would soon come to light that would show police a different story.
The next day, Coal Grove police posted photos of the puppies on Facebook, trying to obtain information on their owner.
That same day, Woodyard said he was contacted by a citizen who wished to remain anonymous and told him that the puppies originally belonged to a cousin of Judith Turvey, Venatter's wife. The citizen said Judith Turvey had taken possession of the dogs and provided a photograph of the puppies with the mother.
That afternoon, Woodyard said, along with Cpl. McKenzie, he went back to the home to speak with Turvey and Venatter. He said, upon arrival, he made contact with Venatter and told him he wanted to speak with the two of them.
Venatter went inside and got his wife and he went to speak with McKenzie, while Turvey spoke with Woodyard.
Woodyard said he asked Turvey to sit in the cruiser and told her she was not being detained and was free to leave at any point.
Woodyard said she told him she had arrived home at night and found the dogs in a pile in the yard.
"I advised Judy that I knew she was lying and that she needed to be honest," Woodyard wrote in his report.
He said she then told him she went out to a family member's house to drop off children and that, while there, her cousin, Aaron, put the dogs in her car without telling her. She said, when she got home, one of the puppies jumped out and she told her husband, who then told her to contact someone to come and get the dogs.
"I again told Judy that I knew she was being dishonest," Woodyard wrote.
He said she then told him she agreed to take the dogs from her cousin and that they jumped out of the van when she got home. She said Venatter told her to say the puppies were dropped at their residence. She said, when they were walking out the door to meet police, her husband told her say the puppies were dropped off, if Woodyard asked.
Woodyard said, at this point, he went to McKenzie and Venatter, and he asked Venatter how the dogs got to the home. He said he was told they were dropped off by the road.
"I advised Jordan that I knew the truth and that he needed to be honest," Woodyard wrote.
He said he was then told by Venatter that his wife had picked the dogs up from a family member and that he had taken them into the home. He said that Venatter told him that his dog became aggressive, so he put the puppies on the porch and tried to call someone to take them. He said Venatter told him the puppies ran off the porch while he was making the call.
Woodyard said Venatter apologized to the officers for lying and told them that he had instructed his wife to lie about the incident.
Woodyard said Venatter told him the puppies had been outside in the cold weather for about two hours. He said both Venatter and Turvey told him that the husband was the one who brought them into the house and later put them outside.
The Tribune spoke with Paulus on Monday. She said the puppies, estimated to be 6-8 weeks old, were doing well and had already gone to a rescue group for adoption.
Coal Grove Police Chief Bill Murphy said the department charges against Venatter and Turvey had sent the to the Lawrence County Prosecutor's Office.