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Emily Welker, Published January 21 2014

Court documents in Kathryn horse abuse case state neighbors warned deputies months ago

KATHRYN, N.D. – Court documents filed against a Kathryn woman accused of starving eight horses to death say neighbors warned law enforcement four months before that there was no food for the animals on the woman’s property.

Ginger Helland, 29, was charged Jan. 9 in Barnes County District Court with animal neglect and mistreating animals, both Class A misdemeanors, and with unlawful disposition of dead animals, an infraction.

Helland and her husband, Karl, were also charged in Barnes County Court on two separate occasions – Sept. 17 and Nov. 12 – of letting their livestock run at large, a Class B misdemeanor.

According to court documents filed with the charges, Barnes County deputies were first called out Aug. 31 after receiving complaints about Helland’s livestock at the Ricky and Larinda Velure farm.

In that and in subsequent interviews through Sept. 3, the Velures and other neighbors told deputies the cattle had been out many times over the summer, and that the animals were getting all their food from crops on neighboring land because there was nothing to eat at the Hellands’ place.

Damage to the Velures’ corn field was estimated at $19,300.

Barnes County deputies were called out again Oct. 12 on reports the Hellands’ cows were at large.

This time, Linda Velure said there was a dead cow in their field in Oakhill Township and a herd of cattle had been in a neighbor’s soybean field the week before.

The next morning, Velure reported the cows were back in the alfalfa, and that Ginger Helland had come and herded them back.

Three more neighbors contacted the Barnes County deputy over the next two weeks, complaining the Hellands’ cows were at large in their soybeans and corn, and in Clausen Springs Park.

On Christmas Day, Barnes County Sgt. Dan Anderson was called to a report of a dead horse in Oak Hill Township, in Ginger and Karl Helland’s pasture.

Anderson found three dead horses next to a small hill but no hay or feed nearby. The other horses nearby were pawing at the ground looking for food, the criminal complaint against Helland says.

Five days later, a witness, Julie Martin, called the Sheriff’s Office to report 15 horses had escaped through a downed fence from the Hellands’ pasture.

Three horses remained, she said, but they looked too sick to move.

That day, Anderson brought Enderlin veterinarian Andrew Peterson to the Hellands’ pasture, where they found four more dead horses piled atop the first three. They found no food but a few stems of weeds sticking out through the snow.

Two of the horses had died less than 24 hours before, Peterson determined, and that based on their emaciated appearance and the “severely overgrazed” pasture, the horses had starved to death.

The next day, Barnes County deputies returned to execute a search warrant on the property and discovered the carcass of a foal.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Emily Welker at (701) 241-5541