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Dismissal, diversion agreements reached with teens accused in chicken incident

Charges were dropped against one teenager and diversion agreements were reached with two others accused in a 2016 St. Croix County animal mistreatment case.

St. Croix County Circuit Court Judge Edward Vlack on Nov. 23, 2016, dismissed one count of intentionally mistreating animals against Green Bay resident Matthew M. Hrubesky, who was 16 at the time of the offense.

Two others charged with the same offense, Suamico resident Hayden J. Lammers — 17 at the time of the incident — and then-16-year-old Ryan D. McElmurry, of Green Bay, both pleaded guilty to the crime in 2017, but received diversion agreements that allow for the charges to be dismissed if terms are abided. According to court records, Lammers’ agreement allows for his case to be expunged from his record.

The teens allegedly played different roles in the incident, which occurred Aug. 21 at a home in the town of St. Joseph.

According to a criminal complaint:

A St. Croix County investigator was contacted Sept. 8 by the Brown County Sheriff’s Office about a cruelty to animals report that happened on Bass Lake Road in the town of St. Joseph.

Brown County authorities were tipped off by an anonymous complainant that a group of students from Bay Port High School in Green Bay had recorded themselves setting a live chicken on fire.

Authorities found a copy of the eight-second video posted to Twitter. The video depicts a teen holding the chicken down with a pole while another touches it with a lit piece of paper that immediately ignites the chicken.

“In my training and experience as an arson investigator, it appears an ignitable liquid such as gasoline or lighter fluid may have been applied to the chicken in order for it to have become engulfed in flames so quickly,” the investigator wrote in the complaint.

It was later learned the chicken didn’t die from the fire; it was later beheaded with an ax by one of the boys.

A Brown County deputy in September interviewed the boys suspected of igniting the chicken; a total of six boys — including three 16-year-olds — confessed to different levels of involvement. The boys told the deputy they were asked by the property owner to cull a rooster from the hen house and to lop its head off.

“Instead of using the axe, the boys decided to light the chicken on fire,” the complaint states.

Hrubesky admitted to pouring gasoline on the animal; McElmurry admitted to holding it down; Lammers admitted to lighting it on fire. A 16-year-old boy admitted to recording the incident on video and sharing it on social media.

All boys involved admitted to their parents what they had done. In spite of being otherwise law-abiding students, the Brown County deputy warned the boys that “I believe they are sorry for their actions but could possibly receive a citation or worse punishment for their actions.”

Intentional animal mistreatment calls for a maximum penalty of nine months in jail and a $10,000 fine.

This story was updated to reflect the court proceedings in the cases.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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