Weather Forecast


Man gets jail time for neglect of 17 horses

The caregiver for six horses that were found dead, and 11 more neglected, at a farmstead near Vergas last winter has been sentenced to one year in jail.

William Vance Tompkins, age 19, of Owasso, Okla., had been entrusted with the care of the horses by his mother, Penny Fick, and her husband, Bill Fick, of rural Vergas while they temporarily resided in Montana.

The Ficks still face charges in the case.

Tompkins was sentenced in Otter Tail County District Court last Monday. In exchange for his guilty plea, a felony count of mistreating animals was dismissed, along with three misdemeanor counts.

He was sentenced to 365 days in jail, with 284 days stayed for one year, for one gross misdemeanor count of mistreating animals.

He was also placed on unsupervised probation for one year, and may not have any unsupervised contact with animals. Authorities may conduct periodic visits to Tompkins to confirm there are no animals present.

Court records show Tompkins has a prior conviction for theft of firearms.

According to court records, the Ficks had left the horses in Tompkins’ care sometime in December of last year. Neighbors later reported that they had not seen Tompkins on the property for one stretch of at least 2-1/2 weeks.

In a search and seizure of the property in February, the Otter Tail County Sheriff’s Office and the State Humane Society found six horses dead and 11 others alive but weak from malnutrition. Two adult llamas and one juvenile llama also were seized due to inhumane conditions and poor health.

Two of the deceased horses were found in a machine shed, according to court records, while one was found outside the shed and three more were discovered buried in snow.

A 100-gallock stock tank of water was found frozen near the barn, its heater present but not functional.

The 11 horses that were rescued were of various breeds, color, gender and ages, and they were in various stages of neglect. They, along with the surviving llamas, were taken to the High Tail Horse Ranch and Rescue near Hawley, Minn.

Bill and Penny Fick are both charged with mistreatment of animals. Tompkins is willing to cooperate in their prosecution, according to court records.

A court hearing for Penny Fick has been scheduled for Oct. 3. If no plea agreement can be reached, a jury trial will begin on Oct. 8.

The next court hearing for Bill Fick is scheduled for Oct. 17. If no plea agreement can be reached, his jury trial will begin Oct. 22.

Tom Hintgen, Otter Tail County Correspondent