Trial Begins for Painted Pastures Owner Accused of Animal Cruelty and Neglect

Prosecutors presented their evidence in what could be the first of three cases against Dawn Hamill.

A county judge heard evidence Wednesday against the owner of a Tinley Park animal sanctuary, denying the defense's efforts to impeach state witnesses, in what could be the first of three trials on accusations of animal cruelty and neglect.

Early on Feb. 11, 2011, Cook County sheriff’s police from the animal crimes unit, accompanied by local animal control officers and members of the Animal Welfare League (AWL) in Chicago Ridge,  from  in unincorporated .

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was triggered on the word of a former employee and .

Prosecutors called six witnesses in front of a Cook County Judge Christopher J. Donnelly Wednesday, several of whom were present during the raid and described finding a dead cat, a dead miniature horse and eight sickly puppies in an unheated garage, their food and bodies matted with urine and feces. For hours the courtroom was redolent with words like “horribly” and “atrocious.”

At the center of the state’s case was Officer Larry Draus, of the Cook County animal crimes unit, whose credibility defense attorney Purav Bhatt repeatedly tried to undermine. He called Draus’ handling of the case “sloppy,” showing, in one instance, how a food bowl which Draus' report said didn’t exist in the dead cat’s cage could be seen in the officer’s own video.

In another instance, Bhatt asked Draus how the puppies could have been energetic-looking and sickly at the same time—to which Draus smirked and said, “They were very happy to see us.”

Photos of the cat showed a crusty gray-colored substance building around its eyes and mouth, which Draus explained was gravel stuck to a diseased discharge.

Several eyewitnesses, including Linda Estrada, executive director of AWL, testified that the dogs had been chewing the installation around their cage, embedding their skin with fiberglass. According to Crystal Broccado, by the time she and other AWL employees finished giving the dogs several baths, their own hands and arms were burning.

Prosecutors presented a report from AWL veterinarians who treated all eight of the dogs for parvo, a virus that attacks an animal's intestinal tract.

Greg Papaleo, a retired officer for the Cook County animal control unit, testified he had visited Painted Pastures a few days before the raid on a routine animal transfer. Though the animals in one of Hamill’s barns were subjected to “subzero” weather, he said he regrettably cut her a break on her promise to fix the heater.

None of the witnesses could say with certainty how the animals had died, but Christine Kelly, the woman whose tip led to the search warrant, testified that she had seen the miniature horse alive two days before the raid.

In his opening statement, Bhatt called Kelly a “disgruntled employee” and blamed her for bringing too many animals into the rescue. She, however, testified that in January 2011 she had taken a trip to Missouri, on Hamill’s order, to pick up a couple dozen dogs for an annual adoption event that was to begin Feb. 12.

She claimed Hamill decided against bringing a veterinarian out to look at the horse, which had stopped eating and drinking. She also said she opted to not test the puppies for disease because there wasn’t money in the budget.

Though she continued to lend a hand when Hamill wasn't around, Kelly quit a few days later because Hamill was being “unreasonable,” she said. Since the raid, alleging her former boss was stalking her.

“Some of these animals met their demise because of the defendant’s cruel treatment,” assistant state’s attorney Sarah Naughton said. “These conditions did not occur overnight.”

Bhatt, on the other hand, painted Hamill as a caretaker with good intentions, one who saw the taking in of sick animals as “the mission of her life.”

He’ll have an opportunity to prove that claim when the trial resumes March 19.

Find lots more Painted Pastures news on Tinley PatchIf you'd like us to let you know when we publish more info about this case, click the green "keep me posted" button immediately below this story on the right-hand side.


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Betty Wagner March 10, 2012 at 05:40 PM
I think that anyone who can do this to poor defencless animal or any one who had knowledge of what was going on should be treated exactly like they treated the animals. Shame on all of you . I would not want to be in your shoes for the wrath you will receive when you stand before God and explain why you did what you did. If you don't love animals stay away from them no one tolf u to do what you clearly had no busness doing in the firsy place...
ted March 10, 2012 at 10:22 PM
Comments were made about her body parts because she used the money that was suppose to be for the animals NOT her numerous surgeries!!!
Carol Nita March 11, 2012 at 10:22 PM
I hope the justice sysrtem works in this case. I SAW these poor animals when they were taking them away. They clearly weren't being taken care of. No one who truly loves animals would have done this. These animals weren't even taken to the vets for check ups and shots. She lives there, she knew what was going on. A shelter I know offered to help her, but she ran them off the property. She is lying through her teeth. I hope all those animals got to be adopted to good homes.
Mary March 16, 2012 at 02:39 AM
She's a DISGRACE period!!
Mary March 16, 2012 at 05:11 PM
For all you Dawn Hamill fans, I personaly seen her kick a dog at an event. She was " training " the dog not to jump. I should have said something then, but I too was once blinded by her fakeness and bs. Getting to know her better I see her true CRAPPY colors!


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