CLARK COUNTY — A Borden woman is facing two charges, including a felony, after police say she shot and killed her neighbor’s pet donkey several months ago following a disagreement.
Sharon Johns, 50, is charged with a level 6 felony for torturing or mutilating an animal and a class A misdemeanor for animal cruelty after an investigation. Police connected her to the animal’s death through what they say was a ballistics match with the fatal bullet found in the side of the donkey, Dolly, and a .357 Johns owned.
Johns was arrested without incident at her home Monday, hours after a warrant was issued in the case. She’s being held in Clark County jail on a $25,000 cash-only bond.
For Kristen Gregory, who runs the farm, Dolly’s death has been a heartbreak beyond belief. When she moved to Indiana from Michigan for work in 2012, Gregory started saving for her dream of having a farm. After five years of saving, it came true.
“This is all I ever wanted,” Gregory said. “When I got here, I started to build my farm and the first animal I ever got was Dolly. She kind of made my farm official.”
Gregory said Dolly, who had been about 4 years old when she got her, was super sweet and funny — always ready to give rides to Gregory’s nieces and nephews. Gregory said it wasn’t uncommon for her to look out and see her giving a ride to a cat or goat.
“She came from a petting farm so all she ever wanted all the time was somebody to be paying attention to her,” Gregory said. “She had a lot of personality. I would put a halter on her, take her for a walk down in the creek, just bonding with her. We had a strong bond.”
On Sept. 23, Gregory looked outside and saw Dolly lying in the pasture. She said she at first didn’t know if she was sick or what had happened but realized when she got to Dolly that she was dead. She called a veterinarian, but when a friend who came to help turned Dolly over, he saw that she was bleeding from her side from a possible gunshot. They called the authorities, and the Clark County Sheriff’s Office responded.
Court records show responding officers asked Gregory if she had had any issues with neighbors who might have been upset about her animals at the farm, and she said someone had made a complaint to the town marshall about her guinea hens, but that she didn’t know who. She also said she had been having issues with Johns, whose property borders hers, and that the day before Dolly was found dead the two women had gotten into an argument when Gregory told her she had plans to put up a privacy fence.
Gregory said she had gone to work the night of Sept. 22 and that Johns had texted her several times, at one point in the text argument sending a message related to harming the animals.
Gregory and her friend reviewed security footage from her property, which was later viewed by police, and there is a moment just before 8 p.m. Sept. 22 when there is the flash of a potential gun blast that appeared to scare some of the animals, court records show.
Gregory said later footage shows another donkey, Willow, stay with Dolly, walk her out to the pasture and stick by her side until she died. Surveillance footage shows Dolly collapse roughly 12 hours later. When Gregory awakened from her night shift at work, she discovered Dolly.
The veterinarian confirmed that Dolly had died from a gunshot wound, and that Gregory paid to have the doctor extract the bullet.
“I was bound and determined to find out whose bullet that was,” Gregory said.
On the day officers initially responded to the farm, they had also gone to Johns’ home nearby, where she identified herself and disclosed that she owned a .357 handgun, court records show.
She was called for questioning in late September, which she initially agreed to, however her attorney contacted police several days later saying she would not be speaking with them but would take a stipulated polygraph test.
Through a search warrant, police collected a .357 Magnum from Johns’ home, along with shells and casings she provided the deputies. Court records show Gregory also had told police she had seen Johns on her respective property shooting what had appeared to be a .357 handgun.
In January, a ballistics match returned for the gun and the bullet removed from Dolly’s side, and the arrest warrant was issued.
Although the case is ongoing and Johns has not been convicted, Clark County Sheriff’s Office Col. Scottie Maples said he was glad to have been able to have enough evidence to link the suspect to the case and make an arrest.
“This is a unique case,” he said, adding that in situations like this, “traditionally you don’t have a lot of evidence.
“It’s unfortunate for the victim; I believe she treated [the donkey] as her family,” he said. “...It may seem insignificant for some but the victim appreciates that there’s some justice.”
Maples said a detective on the case believed that the single shot was fired 50 to 100 yards away from several animals, and that it would have been difficult to hit a particular one on purpose, “and this animal was the unfortunate victim,” he said.
Gregory said she has had to take time off from work and has been in therapy.
“The animals are my kids; this is all I ever wanted,” she said. “She was special.”
Tuesday morning, Johns posted 10% of the $5,000 bond she’d been assigned at arrest. But during a 10:30 a.m. initial hearing in Clark County Circuit Court No. 3, her bond was set at $25,000 cash-only. Her $500 was refunded and she remained in jail after the hearing. A not guilty plea was entered on her behalf, and a no-contact order entered. Johns has a hearing Feb. 11 for bond reduction.