NEWFANE, N.Y. — The owner of Asha’s Farm Sanctuary was arrested on Tuesday for allegedly refusing to return cows to their owner.
Tracy Murphy, 59, of Newfane was arrested for third-degree grand larceny (a class "D" felony).
She was arraigned at the Niagara County Correctional Facility in front of Judge Pamela Rider just after 6 P.M. Tuesday.
New York State Police report that on July 25, troopers out of the Lockport barracks responded to Murphy's sanctuary for a property retrieval of cattle missing from a nearby farm. The SPCA and the owner of the missing steer and heifer also went with troopers.
State Police say Murphy refused to return the cows to the owner.
A warrant of execution to retrieve the cows was produced to retrieve the cows and arrest Murphy.
The cows have been located and returned to their owner.
Following her arrest, Murphy was transported to SP Lockport for processing and remanded to Niagara County Jail for centralized County arraignment.
Murphy appeared in court with shackles around her waist and wrists, something a legal expert told 2 On Your Side Tuesday night is not a standard operating procedure, especially for an offender with a non-violent criminal charge.
Murphy pleaded not guilty to the third-degree grand larceny charge.
The maximum penalty, if convicted, for the felony charge is 7 years in prison. There is no minimum prison requirement if convicted, and it's outlined in the New York State penal code that a first-time offender could be sentenced to probation.
Murphy is scheduled to return to the Town of Newfane court on August 4th for a felony hearing.
Give Me Back My Cows
"I don't know how they got over there," said the owner of the animals, Scott Gregson, who is also a trooper with the New York State Police.
"My fence was secure, the electric was on, and the gates were all closed and there were no hoof prints or droppings so I don't know how they got over there," Gregson said, noting the cows would have had to travel nearly a half mile to get to Murphy's sanctuary.
When they were discovered to be in Murphy's custody, Gregson said he called Murphy and "made arrangements to stop by her place and pick up the cattle Monday after I found out that they were there."
However, when Murphy allegedly refused to return the animals, Gregson says he called the State Police.
"This is about the property rights of farmers," said Ed Pettitt. "Just because it goes on your property doesn't mean that you can take possession of it. There's a lot of money time effort and care that my neighbor put into these animals to get them to that stage."
Several neighbors along Coomer Road had posted signs on their property calling on Murphy to release the cattle to their rightful owner and held a rally in support of Gregson getting his animals back,
"All I wanted was for me to get my cattle back. Obviously, I made a complaint with the state police and they are pressing charges against her. I guess it's up to the courts at this point," Gregson said.