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MAN PLEADS GUILTY IN HORSE DEATHS

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A Layton man has pleaded guilty, with an "explanation," to a charge of animal cruelty in the Ogden Valley deaths of three horses.

Walter D. Hammonds, 40, an electrical contractor, said he was out of state in January and February and had pastured the horses at a Huntsville woman's 40-acre range.The woman never told him the horses were near death, Hammonds said. When he returned, he found the animals had died - and a Weber County deputy sheriff waiting for him with a citation.

Hammonds had originally pleaded not guilty and was set for trial Wednesday. However, he instead entered the guilty plea.

"I'm extremely ashamed," he told Justice Court Judge Craig D. Storey. "I've had horses all my life and always had an affinity for them. They were my responsibility. That's why I changed my plea."

Hammonds claimed the woman on whose range he left the horses called him only once while he worked in Nevada, but only said the animals weren't doing well.

However, prosecutor Les Daroczi said the woman contacted Hammond several times to say the horses were getting "thinner and thinner."

Storey, while noting the pasture arrangements obviously were "up in the air," fined Hammonds $750 for the misdemeanor. The maximum penalty allowed is $1,000.