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Stiff sentence may be merited

Judges at all levels of our criminal justice system have tough jobs to perform. They must carefully consider the facts of each individual case they hear and find a way to balance them with the requirements of the law as they hand down sentences to convicted offenders.

In one ongoing Belmont County animal cruelty case, though, that should be an easy task to complete.

Belmont-area resident Shania Wells is accused of violating her probation for a May 2019 conviction on 10 counts of cruelty to animals. As part of her 900-day sentence, of which she served 90 ays behind bars, she was forbidden from owning animals or being in a residence with animals for five years.

Earlier this month, law enforcement served a search warrant at a Chestnut Level Road residence that 22-year-old Wells was sharing with her mother, Kellie Wells. As a result, officers reportedly found two dead calves, a dead dog and to badly neglected dogs.

Shania Wells now faces five new charges of cruelty to animals, which could lead to a sentence of three and a half years if she is convicted.

The new charges were bound over from Belmont County Western Division Court to Belmont County Common Pleas Court for review by a grand jury after Wells waived her preliminary hearing.

Her sentencing hearing for the parole violation of living in a home with animals is slated for Feb. 11, and she is being held without bond at least until that date.

Wells also was charged with similar crimes in 2017. Instead of going to jail at that time, she was allowed to complete a diversion program for defendants that the prosecution believes are not likely to offend again.

Kellie Wells also is charged with five counts related to animal cruelty.

The two surviving digs found on Jan. 9 are now recovering, according to Julie Larish of Belmont County Hoof & Paw — an organization founded, in part, in response to the incidents involving Shania Wells in 2018.

On Feb. 11, Western Division Judge Eric Costine must decide whether to order Shania Wells to serve out the remainder of her 900-day sentence. He should do just that.

In addition, if she is convicted of the new animal cruelty charges, the presiding judge in common pleas court should give her the maximum possible sentence. Shania Wells has established a clear pattern of criminal behavior and a willingness to flout the law.

Therefore, if found guilty she should be placed behind bars for as long as the law allows.

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