When Ronald Lee Henry Jr. didn't show up for his arraignment on illegal animal-dumping charges, a West Virginia judge issued a bench warrant for his arrest. It took several weeks, but the authorities caught up with him on July 7 and put him in jail.
He was later released on bond, but his troubles are far from over. He's now been scheduled for a status hearing, Sept. 6, and on that date, he's to tell the judge whether he's going to plead guilty to the animal offenses or have a trial.
AT ONE TIME, Henry, 38, of 611 Allegheny Circle in Woodstock, worked full time for Fairfax County's Animal Shelter and part time for Family Pet Cremations in Chantilly. And authorities believe he's responsible for dumping more than 4,000 pounds of animal carcasses in West Virginia, instead of disposing of them in a lawful manner.
More than 250 dead animals — many from Fairfax County — were found in a heap, in late January, in a forested area near Capon Bridge, W. Va. And according to an attorney representing Family Pet Cremations, when the crematorium's incinerator was out of service, the company paid Henry to take the animal remains to a farm in Winchester and bury them there properly.
Instead, some time during the weekend of Jan. 28-29, the carcasses were found above ground by a local resident on private land in Hampshire County, W. Va. The huge pile was discovered in a subdivision with new roads under development.
Members of the Hampshire County Sheriff's Department, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (DNR) Law Enforcement Section and Fairfax County police all began investigating. The trail reportedly led to Henry and, on May 8, the Hampshire County grand jury indicted him and two other men — both of whom live in Capon Bridge.
Each was charged with one count of creating an open dump and one count of unlawful disposal of litter. And in West Virginia, these offenses each carry penalties of up to a year in jail and as much as a $25,000 fine.
ALL THREE men were to be arraigned on these offenses May 22, but only the two West Virginia men came to court. Henry stayed away and was charged with failure to appear. But now that he's had his arraignment, the case against him may proceed once again.
Meanwhile, a source who knows Henry well said the crematorium gave him $2,000 to dispose of the animals, but he then reportedly kept the money and hired the two Capon Bridge residents to help him out, for a smaller amount.
When asked why he didn't bother trying to hide the dead animals, the source said Henry used to work for the forest service, a long time ago, and "knows the back roads and trails. [Because of that], he didn't think anyone would find the animals."
Centre View's attempts to reach Henry at his home were unsuccessful.