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December 19, 2002

Couple faces 151 counts of animal abuse, neglect

From: Bend Bulletin, OR - 19 Dec 2002

By Tom Peterson

The Bulletin

A Brothers couple accused of starving and neglecting 128 horses at their ranch was arraigned in Deschutes County Circuit Court Wednesday on 151 counts of animal abuse and neglect.

Rebecca K. Nichols, 61, and Wayne Everett Nichols, 67, both of 56255 Moffitt Road, sat in Judge Edward Perkins' court Wednesday afternoon and filled out paperwork before Perkins took the bench.

Perkins told the couple they had been formally indicted by a grand jury and were each charged with 10 counts of first-degree animal abuse, one count of second-degree animal abuse, 10 counts of first-degree animal neglect and 130 counts of second-degree animal neglect.

If convicted on the first-degree counts, which are A-class misdemeanors, the Nichols each face a maximum of 20 years in jail and $100,000 in fines.

The District Attorney's Office also started a criminal foreclosure to take all the horses away from the couple, Perkins told them.

During the hearing, Wayne Nichols was unable to respond to the judge's questions. Rebecca Nichols told Perkins that Wayne Nichols was 89 percent deaf and did not know sign language.

Perkins, noting a busy docket, then set over the couple's bail hearing until this morning. He also arranged for Deputy District Attorney Mary Anderson to bring a written copy of her argument for the near-deaf man this morning.

She is expected to make a case for the couple to either post security or be held in jail.

The couple signed release agreements with the court on Wednesday and were expected to return for the hearing this morning on their own recognizance.

The couple pleaded guilty to similar charges in 1995 while living in Washington state.

In 1994, authorities seized 33 neglected horses from their property in Thurston County, according to articles published at the time by The Olympian newspaper.

After pleading guilty to 16 counts each of animal currently, they were ordered not to possess any horses other than those agreed to by a county prosecutor and to allow them to be inspected periodically.

As the two left the court in Bend Wednesday, Rebecca Nichols said she planned on fighting "very hard" to get custody of the horses back.

The Deschutes County Sheriff's Office seized the animals on Dec. 4 after it was reported the animals were starving and neglected. The Sheriff's Office and volunteers are now tending to the animals while the Nichols' case works its way through court.

Tom Peterson can be reached at 541-383-0304 or

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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