Parish President Jessie Bellard issued a statement today on Friday's arrest of the St. Landry Parish Animal Control Center's former director.
Stacey Alleman McKnight, who was the director from February 3, 2015, to March 8, 2020, was booked with three counts of theft of livestock by the Louisiana Livestock Brand Commission, and eight counts of theft, one count of injuring public records, and one count of malfeasance in office by the St. Landry Parish Sheriff's Office after an investigation began looking into missing horses at the Animal Control Center.
"After taking office in August 2020 to fill the parish president's position, I asked the sheriff's department to start looking into the missing livestock at the parish's animal control center," said Jessie Bellard. "Theft and malfeasances cannot be overlooked or ignored in government. St. Landry Parish Government will not tolerate this type of behavior."
The investigation discovered that three horses, files, and equipment from the animal control facility in Opelousas were missing and later found at Alleman's home in Ethel, Louisiana. To read our story about the investigation and her arrest, click here.
Bellard said that parish employees would be held accountable for any transgressions.
"If we learn of any alleged criminal activity by parish employees, we will investigate and prosecute if need be," said Bellard. "Citizens put their trust in us and rely on us to make sound and appropriate decisions on their behalf. For this parish to succeed, we must retain the trust of our citizens by doing the right thing and stopping those that don't."
As we reported on Friday, the St. Landry Parish Sheriff's Office told us that on October 20, 2020, deputies responded to a complaint at the St. Landry Parish Animal Control Center regarding numerous thefts involving livestock, files and parish property.
Upon arrival, a representative with the St. Landry Parish Animal Control Center reported three horses were missing.
The missing horses were described as a black and white (paint) Tennessee Walker, a gelding palimino quarter horse, and a Sorrel quarter horse. The representative further stated that the Tennessee Walker was medically treated by a veterinary school in 2019. The palimino and sorrel were medically treated at a local veterinary center from 2016 until 2019. St. Landry Parish Government paid for all medical services at the time of treatment. The representative also reported that several cattle / horse panels, fencing and kennels were missing from the Center.
On October 22, 2020, the St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office contacted the Louisiana Livestock Brand Commission to assist in this investigation.
Upon investigation by detectives, it was discovered that the horses were removed from the Animal Control Center during the tenure of Stacey Sonnier Alleman McKnight, who was the director of St. Landry Parish Animal Control from February 3, 2015 – March 8, 2020.
They say information was also obtained which states that Stacey McKnight was allegedly seen removing the three horses, files and other property from the Animal Control Center during March 7 – 9, 2020. All property was taken to her home located in Ethel, Louisiana and have remained at the residence since the end of her tenure until present date. Stacey McKnight allegedly also posted photos of the horses on her personal Facebook page, which were dated from July 2020 – September 2020.
When questioned by detectives, Stacey McKnight allegedly admitted to possessing and/or removing the following property from the St. Landry Parish Animal Control Center:
- Birds – Peacock (4) and Geese (4)
- Several animal carriers
- Several case files
- Employee files
- Miscellaneous animal documentation
- Shirt collar insignia pins
- Insurance cards for parish vehicles
- Logbook pertaining to donations, belonging to St. Landry Animal Control.
Multiple interviews were conducted with St. Landry Parish Animal Control personnel and St. Landry Parish Government officials. It was determined that Stacey Sonnier Alleman McKnight did not have permission and/or authorization to remove any property from St. Landry Parish Animal Control.
On March 12, 2021, McKnight turned herself in at the St. Landry Parish Jail and was charged with Theft and Injuring Public Records and Malfeasance in Office.
Her bond was set $29,500. Sheriff Bobby Guidroz said McKnight bonded out of jail later on Friday.
Guidroz said his office has received multiple complaints from the public regarding McKnight's activities at the Animal Control Center. According to the sheriff, McKnight would allegedly seize horses or other animals and not allow their owners to redeem their animals; she would either then sell or donate the animals to someone else.
The sheriff said the horses have since been put in a safe place and detectives are working to locate other owners by using the animals' microchips.
McKnight is currently the manager of Pointe Coupee Animal Services starting that role on March 10, 2020. Pointe Coupee Parish President Major Thibault says that Mcknight has been an exceptional shelter manager and animal control office. She remains employed with Pointe Coupee parish.
"Unless anything comes out of the investigation that affected her duties in Pointe Coupee Parish, she will stay in her job," he said.
Samuel “Chuck” Ward, who is representing McKnight, released this statement on her arrest:
“Stacey has complied with Law Enforcement Officials since being notified of the Arrest Warrant. She turned herself in prior the agreed upon time, and will be released today.
She has, and continues to be, an exceptional mother, employee, and animal lover. She has dedicated her life to caring for animals that others would not. She goes above and beyond her job duties, sacrificing her time and (own) money to ensure that animals are well taken care of, properly fed and nurtured, and are in an appropriate environment and home. At NO TIME, has any allegation been made that she has mistreated or harmed any animal(s).
Stacey’s hard work and dedication has garnered her a following across the United States, and has a substantial social media presence due to her good deeds and sacrifices over the years.
Her arrest is shocking, not only to her, but to anyone who knows her. She is committed to ensuring that her side of the story is heard, and when it is, the good citizens of St. Landry Parish will be called upon to judge her. A very thorough investigation is underway on her behalf after the State has now concluded theirs. No one can change the facts, and the truth, and she welcomes the opportunity to tell her story. However in doing so, this case will be tried in the Courtroom, and not be tried in the Court of public opinion.”
Guidroz said it is now up to the District Attorney's Office to bill McKnight on the charges and present her to a judge for a court date.
Anyone with information on the Animal Control Center or McKnight, or anyone who had an animal taken that they were not able to redeem, should contact the St. Landry Parish Sheriff's Office.
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