MANATEE -- The owners of an East Manatee animal rescue will stand trial Oct. 20 on multiple counts of animal cruelty and fraud.
Napier's Log Cabin Horse and Animal Sanctuary was raided Feb. 5 by a multi-agency law enforcement effort led by the Manatee County Sheriff's Office. The animal rescue owned by Alan and Sheree Napier was found in deplorable conditions, according to investigators. About 300 animals were confiscated and the remains of 20 were found the next day.
The Napiers were first arrested April 17. Sheree Napier was first charged with 14 counts of animal cruelty, and Alan Napier was first charged with 15 counts of animal cruelty and one count of unlawful solicitation to defraud.
On June 2, the couple arranged to turn themselves in to the Manatee County jail and additional charges against them were filed. Both were charged with one count of scheming to defraud over $50,000. Alan Napier was charged with two counts of unlawful solicitation to defraud and Sheree Napier was charged with one count of unlawful solicitation to defraud.
On Wednesday morning, the couple appeared before circuit Judge Charles Roberts, who set the trial date.
Jennifer Joynt-Sanchez, defense attorney for Sheree Napier, said she did not want to waive her client's right to a speedy trial but the discovery materials provided by prosecutors had been extensive.
"That is true, that there have been volumes and volumes," Assistant State Attorney Lisa Chittaro said. "I have been putting everything on CDs because that's easiest. We are probably at 7,000 or 8,000 pages due to the complexity and the volume."
Sanchez also indicated she would file a motion to waive Sheree Napier's appearance in all remaining case management hearings, which are scheduled monthly until the trial.
Frederick Wernicke, defense attorney for Alan Napier, indicated a desire to file a similar motion.
Roberts set an Aug. 6 deadline for all motions in the case to be filed.
Edward Dunham, a licensed veterinarian listed as the director of veterinary medicine at Napier's, is also charged in the case. Dunham was arrested April 19 and charged with one count of aggravated animal cruelty.
Dunham is also set to stand trial in October.
Anthony Ryan, defense attorney for Dunham, appeared on his behalf, having previously waived his appearance.
Roberts granted Ryan's request to remove his client's case from all future major case management hearings since Dunham is only facing one count.
Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter@JDeLeon1012.