In 2015, when two pet cows were killed in Richmond by crossbow bolts, police were confident they had a viable suspect. Six years later, a lack of evidence has prevented law enforcement from making an arrest and the statute of limitations for charging someone with the crime is set to run out.
On Nov. 20, 2015, Daria Goggins found the bodies of her two 13-year-old pet Holstein cattle about 600 feet from their pasture. At the time police said each had suffered one fatal wound and that the shootings were intentional.
Goggins had rescued the two cows — twins named Theadore and Isadora — from a slaughterhouse 10 years earlier and kept them as pets. She is still pushing for the person or persons responsible to be held accountable.
Maine District Attorney Natasha Irving said there is nothing she would rather do in the case.
Irving was elected district attorney for four counties, including Sagadahoc, after the cows were killed and inherited the case from her predecessor. She took it under review and ultimately concluded there was not enough evidence to bring it to trial.
“There was good suspicion who was responsible,” Irving said. “But we did not have any admissible evidence for trial or for proving probable cause beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Goggins, who is a lawyer but is not licensed to practice in Maine, had hoped testimony given at a separate court proceeding involving a potential witness to the crime would be taken into account.
“That would be a key part in the case,” Goggins said. “But the long and the short of it is that no effort was made to interview the prospective witness.”
According to Irving, statements the potential witness made at the unrelated proceeding could not be used because it was information told to her by someone else.
Later, according to Irving and Richmond Police Chief James Donnell, the potential witness declined to testify in the case of the dead cows.
“We had been in contact with [the witness] but she stopped communicating with us,” Donnell said. “Everything pointed to a certain group but we needed more to make it work and without good information we could not go after it.”
Earlier this month the case drew the attention of the international animal advocacy group In Defense of Animals. An action alert was sent out by Doll Stanley, justice for animals director at In Defense of Animals, asking people to contact Irving and urge her to pursue legal action against those who killed the cows.
“The bottom line is [Irving] mishandled the case because it was cows that were killed,” Stanley said. “I find it appalling.”
Irving drew the animal group’s attention and ire last year for her prosecution of two former Rockland police officers convicted of bludgeoning porcupines to death while on duty. The group felt the sentences received by the former officers, which included jail time and fines, did not reflect the severity of the crime.
According to Irving, the lack of charges in the case of Goggin’s cows has nothing to do with the fact the victims were animals.
“We have not refrained from charges because we don’t like cows or think animal cruelty is OK,” Irving said. “We charge for crimes against animals all the time but the standard we go by is always, ‘do we have enough evidence to convict beyond a reasonable doubt?’ and in this case, we did not.”