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Wakefield couple charged with animal neglect



Bessemer — A married Wakefield couple faces felony animal cruelty charges for their treatment of eight dogs and 13 cats found malnourished and allegedly abused.

Gerard Joseph Herlache, 51, and Lawrence C. Murphy, 52, were each arraigned Monday on two counts of abandoning/cruelty to 10 or more animals. Each of the felony counts carries a potential maximum sentence of four years in prison, a $5,000 fine and/or up to 500 hours of community service.

The charges stem from a visit the Gogebic County Sheriff’s Department made to the couple’s home on the 900 block of Plymouth Road in Wakefield on July 25 after the department was notified of dogs barking at the residence.

Neighbors were concerned for the welfare of the animals, because Herlache and Murphy had not been seen in multiple weeks, according to GCSD deputy Cody Smith. When deputies responded to the call, the smell of ammonia and feces was evident from outside on the porch and many furry cat faces were looking out the window, but no one answered.

Smith returned to the residence later and there was evidence someone had been there in the interim. Smith sought a search warrant through the prosecutor’s office and, in the meantime, reached Murphy and Herlache and met them at the house. Upon entering with a facemask because of the extreme odor, Smith allegedly found the dogs caged in the living room without access to food or water and there was evidence they were defecating and urinating on each other.

The house was littered with trash, turds and urine and Smith noted it looked to be a health hazard to any occupant.

Many of the dogs had fur matted with hair tangles and feces and struggled to walk to the vehicle for the trip to the HOPE animal shelter, because the feces-matted hair was causing them pain to move, according to the report.

The cats, according to Smith’s report, were in slightly better shape because they were able to run free in the house and eat food. One cat, though, was visibly weak and had a nasty eye infection, according to Smith.

Smith returned to the residence with the Wakefield Volunteer Fire Department, using respirators to inspect the home further.

Smith said the house was in complete disrepair, from top to bottom, although dog food was discovered in the basement.

Smith forwarded his report to the Wakefield building inspector so the house can be inspected, as it has apparently not had running water or power since the huge storm of 2016.

Both defendants are being held at the Gogebic County Jail on a $20,000 bond, 10 percent of which must be posted to be released.

Editor’s Note: Daily Globe reporter Richard Jenkins contributed to this story.


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