By Stephanie Thompson, Sweetwater NOW
ROCK SPRINGS — A Rock Springs woman who pleaded guilty to one count of animal cruelty will serve six months in the Sweetwater County Detention Center.
Lauryn Burge, 20, appeared in the Rock Springs Municipal Court of Judge Scott Nelson Tuesday morning for a sentencing hearing to the misdemeanor charge. Burge originally pleaded guilty to the charge at a December 30, 2019, hearing, however sentencing was deferred at the time so the state could look into the case.
Burge was also ordered to pay $444.45 in restitution for treatment the surviving dog. Nelson told Burge if she took every parenting class available while in the detention center, he could lessen the sentence.
Even though Burge received the maximum jail sentence, the maximum fine of $750 wasn’t given. Judge Nelson said he wanted Burge to pay the restitution instead.
“We’re happy she’ll do jail time,” Terry Dufford said.
However, Terry said in cases like these, a stiffer penalty is needed. Terry is the father of Jayden Dufford, Burge’s ex-fiancé, who left his puppies in Burge’s care while he was in basic training for three months.
Assistant city attorney Jordan Allen called three witnesses, including Rock Springs Police Officer Tracy Frisbee.
Officer Frisbee said he was asked to participate in a civil standby because a young man, later identified as Jayden Dufford, wanted to gather his belongings from an apartment.
“When I opened the door, I got a very strong smell,” Frisbee said. “It smelled very bad.”
According to his statement, the kitchen area was trashed, dishes were left all over, feces and urine were on the floor and flies were flying around the kitchen. While Frisbee was talking to Burge, Jayden and his family looked for the puppies.
“They came out with two animals that definitely hadn’t been fed for a long time,” Frisbee said. “I mean, they looked bad.”
Jayden and his sister Brooklynne Dufford left with the dogs, telling Frisbee they needed immediate attention. While they were gone Frisbee was told three other adults were living in the apartment with Burge.
Terry testified Jayden had just returned home after three months of basic training. Terry said Jayden and Burge’s relationship had ended and Jayden was told there were other people living in the apartment with Burge. That’s why they called for an officer to assist with him retrieving his personal items.
“When we walked in the apartment, the smell was horrendous,” Terry said.
As they went through the rooms, Terry said the trash, flies and stench was almost too much, but they were looking for the dogs. A video was played to show the condition of the apartment, it depicted feces, urine and trash all over the floor in every room. The kitchen was the worst with flies hovering all over the leftover food.
While he was trying to process everything he saw, Terry heard something much worse.
“All I heard was my daughter say ‘I think one is dead,” Terry said.
The family immediately left with puppies, after finding them emaciated in the bathtub. Angel, was in the worst condition and they thought she was dead until she moved. Since it was a night, they couldn’t get the animals to the veterinarian, but spoke to one and were told how to treat the puppies.
The next morning on the way to the veterinarian’s office, Angel died in Brooklynne’s arms. Maxie, the other puppy, survived.
Brooklynne testified she took the veterinarian’s advice and fed the dogs Pediasure and goat’s milk, but Angel threw it up. Maxie kept the milk down and even ate hard food.
Brooklynne said they had Angel cremated, but they still have to pay for the veterinarian bills related to treating Maxie. So far, the total is $444.45. She also said Burge had bought the puppies for her brother.
After the testimony, attorney Allen said he was asking the court to give Burge a five-month jail sentence with one month probation. He asked for restitution in $444.45 be paid and a fine set also.
“She would have witnessed these animals whittle away slowly,” he said.
JUDGE QUESTIONS BURGE
Nelson asked Burge several times if she wanted to speak, but she said “no.” He started to ask her some questions about herself and the case.
Burge was asked if she had ever been in trouble with the law in the past.
“I’ve never even been in a courtroom,” Burge said.
Burge said she has a one-year-old son, whom she has given guardianship to her mother when all of this happened.
Judge Nelson also asked why she didn’t ask anyone for help with the dogs.
Burge said she posted their photos on Facebook several times in an effort to find a taker, but no one responded.
Judge Nelson asked her why she didn’t take the dogs to a shelter if she couldn’t care for them. She said the registration on her car lapsed and she couldn’t pay it so she couldn’t take the dogs to the animal shelter. She said she has two cats that are fat, and she tried to feed the dogs, but Maxie was aggressive and wouldn’t let Angel eat.
Burge told the court she first noticed the dogs’ deteriorating condition around December 15, 2019.
Judge Nelson said the court isn’t set up for these types of cases. He expressed concerned about Burge having a small child and handed down the sentence of six months in jail with orders to pay restitution.
He then gave her stern instructions by telling her to take as many parenting classes as she could while in the jail. He said she could then request a sentence reduction.
“I’m giving you the opportunity to avoid the six months,” Judge Nelson said. “Please take advantage of that.”