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Animal cruelty plea hearing continued to July 24

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — A plea agreement hearing in an animal cruelty case was continued Friday in Belmont County Common Pleas Judge John Vavra’s courtroom.

Both Assistant Prosecutor Kevin Flanagan and the defendant’s attorney, Josh Norman, agreed that more research needed to be done before the accused, Kellie Wells of Belmont, could commit to a plea deal.

Wells is charged with felony counts of animal cruelty after humane society volunteers allegedly found two dead calves, one dead dog and two badly neglected dogs in her home on Jan. 9.

Wells’ daughter, Shania Wells, was on probation for a previous animal cruelty case when the animals were found. Shania Wells was not supposed to be living with any type of companion animals.

Vavra said he did some research himself and found one past case out of Holmes County, Ohio, where a person was sentenced to prison for felony animal cruelty charges.

The current plea deal calls for Kellie Wells to plead guilty to three fifth-degree felony counts of animal cruelty and to have two other misdemeanor charges dropped. However, it is possible she could get prison time rather than community control sanctions if she agreed to this deal.

The hearing was continued to 10 a.m. July 24 to allow both Flanagan and Norman to do more research. Vavra said before anyone commits to a plea deal, he wants that person to be fully aware of whether they could face jail time.

“I believe, from what counsel has provided to me and what I have found, we do not have a definitive answer that the court is limited to imposing only a community controlled sentence. That means I have the authority to put you in the women’s prison — but that’s still the issue that has not been settled yet,” Vavra said.

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