Hendry County rancher found guilty of starving animals

Robert David Starkweather

LABELLE — A Hendry County jury found a rancher guilty of 12 counts of aggravated animal cruelty on Jan. 31.

In April of 2018, Robert David Starkweather was charged with 144 counts related to cruelty to animals. The State Attorney’s Office filed 131 counts of the charge Cruelty to Animals and 13 counts of Improper Disposing of Dead Animals for the handling of animals that allegedly died in his care. The cruelty charges filed by the office involved alleged crimes that occurred in Hendry County with the animals being starved with no access to food.

There were 77 cows, 48 calves, and 2 donkeys found on property on Fort Denaud Road in LaBelle by the Hendry County Sheriff’s Office after an anonymous tip was called in. There were 13 animals found dead upon arrival.

The Hendry County Sheriff’s Office investigated the case with substantial assistance from the Lee County Sheriff’s Office and Collier County Sheriff’s Office. The animals were seized and were taken from the property and moved to another location. One calf died and five had to be euthanized due to their poor health conditions after being looked at by a veterinarian.

Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 26.

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