Owner of farm sanctuary who wouldn't return stray cows charged with grand larceny, released
NEWFANE, N.Y. (WIVB) — A beef between farmers and a local animal sanctuary in Niagara County, New York has been resolved as a result of law enforcement action.
Earlier this month, two cows found their way to Asha’s Farm Sanctuary in Newfane, according to owner Tracy Murphy.
Scott Gregson, who owns McKee Farms just down the road, said the cows were his, but the sanctuary did not want to give the cows back. The incident led to protests by local farmers outside of the sanctuary.
“I knew I was going to get my cattle back, I knew they were my cattle and I had evidence proving that,” said McKee Farms owner Scott Gregson.
On July 25, New York State Troopers went to the animal sanctuary “for a property retrieval of cows with the SPCA and the owner of the cows,” they wrote in a news release Tuesday morning.
Tracy Murphy, the 59-year-old president and founder of Asha’s, refused to give them back, police said, resulting in protests coming from both sides.
“I would say it’s a little unorthodox,” New York state trooper James O’Callaghan said to Nexstar’s WIVB. “When any sort of animal crosses into your property, I mean they’re still not technically yours.”
State police announced Tuesday morning that Murphy has been charged with third-degree grand larceny — a felony. The cows have since been returned to their owner, police said.
“We’re very relieved to have them back safe, my children are very excited and it just feels good to get to this stage here where we can finally have our property back,” Gregson said.
“Obviously we feel satisfied that the cows were released, we feel justified that she was held accountable for her actions and was arrested,” said Ed Pettitt, who’s been protesting outside the sanctuary all week.
Following her processing at the State police barracks in Lockport, Murphy was remanded to the Niagara County Jail for centralized county arraignment later that evening.
No cameras were allowed in the small courtroom, housed within the Niagara County Jail. Murphy entered the room in a sage green jumpsuit with her hands and feet shackled. The proceedings were quick, after Murphy spoke with her public defender and called her retained attorney over the phone in another room. She was soft spoken while answering the judges questions. She was represented in court by public defender Evan Leffler and released on her own recognizance.
A felony hearing has been scheduled for Thursday afternoon. A condition of Murphy’s release stated that she must cease posting about the case on social media. Gregson requested an order of protection, however that was put on hold until Thursday’s hearing, when Murphy will appear with her attorney in court. Leffler argued there are tensions on both sides and Murphy claims that she has been harassed by other farmers. The attorney said these parties do not have any contact, despite their houses being close to one another.