More than 14 months have elapsed since Ronald Lee Henry Jr. illegally and unceremoniously dumped animal remains — many from Fairfax County — on private land in West Virginia. And now he's received a one-year suspended sentence in Hampshire County Circuit Court.
HENRY, 38, of 611 Allegheny Circle in Woodstock, worked full time for the Fairfax County Animal Shelter and part time for Family Pet Cremations in Chantilly. But when the crematorium's incinerator went on the blink for awhile in January 2006, instead of taking the animal remains to a farm in Winchester and burying them there properly — as the business paid him to do — Henry took matters into his own hands.
He hired two other men to help him drive the carcasses to West Virginia and then chuck them in a giant heap above ground. But it didn't end there because, late that month, more than 250 dead animals were found in a forested area near Capon Bridge, in Hampshire County, W.Va.
They'd been disposed of in a residential subdivision with new roads under development. And a local resident discovered them and notified the authorities.
Making matters worse, it was the second such discovery in a month. Around Christmastime 2005, a pile of about 70 animal carcasses was found in the George Washington National Forest in Hardy County, W.Va.
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. And the evidence pointed to Henry and two other men — Jason Scott Light, 21, and Shane Douglas Richmond, 27, both of Capon Bridge.
Each was charged with unlawful disposal of litter and, in May, the Hampshire County grand jury indicted all three men. Then on Oct. 5, in that county's circuit court, both Richmond and Light pleaded guilty before Judge Donald H. Cookman and were each sentenced to probation.
On Oct. 12 before the same judge, Henry also pleaded guilty. He returned to court Feb. 15 and was sentenced to a year in jail with all of that time suspended. He was also placed on five years supervised probation.
However, he's not out of the woods, yet. Because of his alleged criminal activity in a national forest, Henry was indicted Feb. 21 by a federal grand jury representing the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia.
He's slated for arraignment March 13 in Elkins, W. Va. And if eventually convicted in this venue, he could be sentenced to as much as 10 years in prison and fined a possible maximum of $250,000.