MEMPHIS, TN – June 7, 2013 – A Shelby County criminal court jury convicted Billy Stewart, former Memphis Animal Shelter (MAS) employee, of four (4) counts of aggravated animal cruelty and one (1) count of animal cruelty.
Billy Stewart is the third defendant charged after a Memphis Police Department undercover investigation. In September 2012, Stewart’s former co-workers, Frank Lightfoot, Jr. and Archie Elliott, III pled guilty as charged to a total of six (6) counts of aggravated animal cruelty. Lightfoot was sentenced to two (2) years on four (4) counts with each count to be served concurrently. Elliott was sentenced to two (2) years on two (2) concurrent counts.
The Memphis Police Department Organized Crime Unit undercover investigation began in November 2011 after complaints of animal fighting and missing or unaccounted for animals occurring at the Memphis Animal Shelter.
Evidence presented at trial revealed an MPD undercover officer began working as a technician at MAS. While employed as a technician, the officer conducted duties inside the shelter. Those duties also included duties inside the shelter’s euthanasia room, or “E.R.” There the officer witnessed Billy Stewart strangle five (5) dogs in the euthanasia room on five (separate) dates. Stewart used a catch pole to strangle the animals to unconsciousness while Frank Lightfoot would administer lethal injections directly into the animals’ hearts or organs without sedation. Proof showed the acts of cruelty on the animals were committed despite Stewart being aware of proper restraint and sedation procedures instituted by MAS management.
Aggravated animal cruelty is a class “E” felony with a sentence range of one (1) to six (6) years upon conviction. Animal cruelty is a class “A” misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of eleven (11) months, twenty-nine (29) days.
Stewart will be sentenced on July 18, 2013.
Assistant district attorney Katie Ratton of the District Attorney General’s Organized Crime Unit (OCU) handled the prosecution.
Judge Paula Skahan presided.