CHEROKEE COUNTY, GA - A school officer is charged in connection to the deaths of two K9 officers. Investigators say he shot one of them and left the other one in a hot car. A spokesperson for the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office said they're still working to determine the circumstances of a third set of animal remains: "This investigation is not over".
Former Cherokee County School police officer Lt. Dan Peabody was taken into custody Wednesday morning and charged with felony animal cruelty and making false statements. He received a $22,400 bond, but remains in jail until a first appearance scheduled for Thursday afternoon.
The Cherokee Marshal's Office and Cherokee Sheriff's Office responded to the home of Lt. Peabody, a school resource officer, on June 10.
According to a preliminary investigation, a 4-year-old Belgian Malinois named Inca was left in the officer's patrol unit at about 4:15 p.m.
The officer went into his home to "deal with another dog" inside the home.
Officials said that around 7 p.m., the officer remembered Inca was still in the patrol car and found the police canine dead in the rear of the patrol unit.
Officials said at a press conference after the death that Peabody lent his K9 vehicle to another officer whose vehicle was out of service.
They said Peabody drove home that day in a Ford Crown Victoria that was not equipped with cages or alarms and they believe that "played a factor" in what later unfolded at the home.
"This vehicle was not equipped with alarms, it was not equipped with a kennel," Marshal Chief Ron Hunton said at the time.
"It wasn’t equipped in the manner that you see normally in a K9 vehicle. I certainly have to say that obviously that had an impact on this."
Hunton said that, in this case, that's extremely important.
"If you’re going to have K9s you need to take care of them," he said. "And you need to make sure the cars are equipped to take care of these dogs. That’s just a fact. I understand in this case the car was down and they had some vehicle issues, but you can see what can happen."
The second charge of making false statements is linked to the death of another retired K9, Dale. According to investigators, Peabody took Dale in 2012 when the K9 retired. He originally told police Dale died when he choked on a ball. However, investigators later determined Peabody shot Dale shortly after he retired. Tips about Dale's death came into the Sheriff's Office after Inca died.
A Sheriff's spokesperson also said they discovered a third set of animal remains at a home Peabody lived in about a year ago. At this point, they're not sure what animal died or under what circumstances. The remains are believed to be those of a dog. A forensic Veterinarian is working to identify the breed and cause of death.
When reached for comment, the Cherokee County School released a statement:
Lt. Dan Peabody submitted his resignation from the CCSD School Police Department on June 16; the School Board accepted his resignation at its meeting that evening.
In response to specific questions about Dale's death, they sent a second statement:
CCSD School Police Department K9 Dale retired from duty in May 2012. CCSD School Police Department policy permits a handler to apply to adopt a retiring K9, which Lt. Peabody did and was granted ownership of Dale. The School District did not know of these allegations in regard to the death of Dale until the Cherokee County Marshal's Office shared that information.
Late Wednesday afternoon, the Cherokee County Marshall's Office announced Peabody's wife, Tyler Verlander, was illegally operating a kennel out of their home.
"She did not have a business license, nor was the home zoned or permitted for this type of use," a spokesperson for the Marshall's office said. "There were no indications or reasons to believe that any animals were in danger or harmed while at the home."
She was issued several citations for the violations.
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