McIntosh County man pleads guilty in cattle death case

2013-08-23T14:23:00Z McIntosh County man pleads guilty in cattle death caseBy BRIAN GEHRING | Bismarck Tribune Bismarck Tribune

A McIntosh County man charged with four counts of overworking, mistreating or abandoning animals who was scheduled to stand trial Friday pleaded guilty to three of the our counts.

James Schnabel, 44, entered the guilty pleas Friday in South Central District Court in Bismarck. The fourth charge was dropped at Friday’s hearing before District Court Judge Cynthia Feland.

Schnabel was charged in April with four counts of overworking, mistreating or abandoning animals.

The charges relate to a Jan. 15 incident on Schnabel’s farm where he told investigators wild dogs spooked his cows causing them to die from trampling and suffocation.

According to an affidavit from McIntosh County Sheriff Laurie Spitzer, on March 4 someone reported there were more than 100 dead cattle on Schnabel’s farm.

On March 13, Spitzer and Lyle Kenner, a veterinarian from Linton, went to Schnabel’s farm and Spitzer wrote they observed numerous dead cows, some in piles and in various locations on the farm, most frozen solid.

A necropsy of three of the calves that were not frozen determined they died of starvation.

The adult dead cattle were not examined because they were too frozen, Kenner wrote, but they were thin, emaciated and none appeared to have normal body conditions.

On July 1, Schnabel was charged with Class B felony criminal attempt at theft of property and Class A misdemeanor committing a fraudulent insurance act.

An investigator with the North Dakota Insurance Department's fraud unit, wrote in an affidavit that Schnabel and his wife submitted a claim to Farmers Union Insurance on Jan. 30 for cattle that died being chased by wild dogs. The Schnabels had coverage for specific perils on livestock, including attacks by dogs or wild animals.

The investigator wrote that it was his opinion the cows died of starvation and many had been in place longer than Schnabel indicated, based on March 13 photographs taken at the far.

Schnabel told insurance agents that he had returned home and found seven dogs attacking his cows on Jan. 30. He said he fired shots, and the dogs ran away.

In the following weeks, agents visited the farm near Venturia, took photographs and inspected a pile of animals, which were mired down in manure and entangled in each other, determining 116 cattle, worth $92,300, had died.

Court action is pending on the insurance fraud charges.

At Friday’s change of plea hearing on the animal charges, though, Schnabel’s attorney, Ross Espeseth, told Feland there were two dogs and Schnabel did not have time to fire shots at them.

Logan County State’s Attorney Gerald Kuhn, who is prosecuting the case, said he agreed to drop the fourth count of mistreatment because evidence was “shaky.”

One count in the complaint was for two feeder calves found dead in a pole barn, the second count is for five feeder calves found dead in a corral next to the pole barn, the third count is for one yearling and one calf found dead in another corral adjacent to the pole barn and the fourth count was for the rest of the animals, both dead and alive, on the farm.

Feland sentenced Schnabel to 60 days in jail, suspended, fined him $1,000 on each of the three counts and suspended the fine on two of the counts.

He was sentenced to serve two years of unsupervised probation, complete 80 hours of community service, pay $325 in fees and allow officials to monitor his operation during the duration of his probation.

​Reach reporter Brian Gehring 250-8254 or

Copyright 2015 Bismarck Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Small fire damages Bismarck apartment

A Friday morning stove fire resulted in no injuries and minor damage to a residence on the 100 block of East Indiana Avenue, the Bismarck Fire…

18 hours ago

Fort Yates man sentenced for 1997 sex assault

A Fort Yates man on Thursday was sentenced to 11 years and six months in federal prison after he was found guilty of aggravated sexual assault…

18 hours ago

Motorcyclist injured in crash near Belfield

A 59-year-old Clinton, Mont., man was transported by helicopter for emergency medical treatment after crashing his motorcycle on Interstate Hi…

18 hours ago

Host communities engage riders in bike tour

Host communities engage riders in bike tour

The 23rd annual CANDISC, Cycling Around North Dakota in Sakakwea Country, bike tour will kickoff Sunday with a brand new theme, the Tour of Champions.

19 hours ago

Bismarck to collect broken tree branches

Bismarck city waste crews will pick up tree branches set out for garbage collection from the July 28 wind storm on residents' regular route co…

19 hours ago

Area pools deal with extreme weather

Area pools deal with extreme weather

Bismarck's outdoor pools and Raging Rivers in Mandan have dealt with significant high winds and storms this summer, which caused several closings.

20 hours ago

Featured Ads

View All Ads

Featured Businesses

View more...