A mother and son from rural Overton were sentenced in Dawson County District Court Monday on a Felony charge of Abandonment or Cruel Neglect of Animals charge. Sixty-year-old Diane Wempen and 34-year-old Eugene Wempen, Jr. were sentenced to 30 months of probation and ordered to not own, possess or reside with any animals for 15 years, the maximum sentencing enhancement for such crimes under state statute. The prohibition covers not only livestock but, also any pets such as cats and dogs. It was a similar sentence handed down to Diane’s husband, Eugene Wempen, Sr. in February. Judge Jim Doyle granted an exemption to Diane Wempen for a bona fide service dog based on health conditions. Both Wempen’s were also sentenced to one day jail with credit for time served. They were also sentenced to 75 days of jail at the end of probation that could be waived upon successful completion of probation.
The case stems from an investigation by the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office on April 12, 2018. A deputy observed several cattle deceased in corrals and others displaying outward signs of possible malnutrition and sickness. A search warrant was obtained for further investigation. the Sheriff’s Office, in cooperation with area veterinarians and producers were caring for and providing the appropriate nutrition for the remaining animals.
Sixty-five(65) head of cattle were dead and another 75 head of cattle were relocated from the property. All other animals located on the property were removed and being cared for as well. They included llamas, donkeys, miniature ponies, horses, goats, sheep and hogs.
At the sentencing hearing, Wempen, Jr’s defense attorney Brian Copley said his client has taken responsibility for his actions. In addition, Copley says Wempen, Jr his lost his cattle, his job and won’t be able to return to his livelihood before the case.
Diane Wempen’s defense attorney Corey Burns said that the cattle business was her livelihood and way of life and that she had no ability to pay restitution. Neither Diane nor Eugene Jr. spoke on their behalf at the hearing.