ANGELINA COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - Deputies with the Angelina County Sheriff's Office arrested a 54-year-old man on tampering with evidence and animal cruelty charges Wednesday in connection to allegations that he moved a malnourished horse that was the subject of an ongoing animal cruelty investigation.
James Edward Coutee, of Lufkin, was booked into the Angelina County Jail on a third-degree felony tampering with or fabricating physical evidence charge and a Class A misdemeanor cruelty to livestock animals charge.
He was released later Wednesday after he posted bail. The Angelina County Jail website listed the bail amount for the animal cruelty charge as $5,000. No bail amount was listed for the tampering with evidence.
According to the arrest affidavit, the Angelina County Sheriff's Office got a complaint about a malnourished horse at a property in the 800 block of Water Well Road on April 26. The ACSO deputy who obtained the warrant went to check things out the next day, and found that one of the six horses was so thin that it's withers, spine, ribs, and hips were protruding.
"The horse also had hair loss on several parts of the body," the affidavit stated.
The ACSO deputy wrote that in the 15 minutes she observed the white horse, it didn't graze like the others did. According to the affidavit, there also wasn't any noticeable water source for the horses.
After the ACSO deputy determined that Coutee owned the allegedly malnourished horse, she spoke to another deputy, who said that the sheriff's office has filed an animal cruelty charge on Coutee in the past and said that when someone makes a complaint about his horses, he has previously moved them to another county to get them away from the investigation, the affidavit stated.
Further investigation revealed that an animal cruelty complaint was filed on Coutee for a dead horse at the property on Water Well Road in on February 9, 2016, and another complaint for an injured horse at the same location was filed on May 2, 2016. In addition, Coutee was convicted of cruelty to livestock animals on June 2, 2011, the affidavit stated.
Coutee called the ACSO deputy on April 28 and explained that the horse's condition was because of its age. The affidavit stated. He also allegedly said the horse has not been eating because it doesn't have any teeth. The deputy then told him to seek veterinary care for the horse, the affidavit stated.
Later, the ACSO deputy learned that Coutee did show up for a scheduled appointment at the Angelia Vet Clinic on May 1. He then left a voice mail saying he was taking the horse to a veterinary clinic in Nacogdoches, but he would not say which one.
The ACSO deputy called all the vet clinic in Nacogdoches and found that none of them had a James Coutee bringing a horse in for treatment. However, the Sterling Vet Clinic said they had a man from Lufkin who brought a horse in, the affidavit stated.
When the deputy spoke to the veterinarian who looked at the horse, he said the horse appeared to be about 25 years old and was extremely malnourished. The veterinarian also said the horse didn't have any teeth and said he gave the man a feed plan for the horse.
The ACSO deputy called the original complainant back and found that the horse had been moved from the property on Water Well Road on April 28 or April 29.
The ACSO deputy then called Coutee back and said she had not received the vet paperwork. When she asked where the horse had been moved to, Coutee "acted as if he did not want to give the location," the affidavit stated.
The ACSO told Coutee that it was an ongoing animal cruelty investigation, so she needed to know where the horse had been moved to, and he said he understood and that it was on a property on FM 2021, the affidavit stated. However, he didn't give any further information on the horse's new location.
The ACSO deputy got the vet paperwork on the horse on May 5, and it showed the horse had a body score of 3 out of 10, with 1 being the worst condition, the affidavit stated.
According to the affidavit, when the ACSO deputy asked Coutee if the "friend" who took the horse to the Nacogdoches vet clinic could tell her where the horse was, and he said no.