FLIGHT. 46 | NOPE. 23 | Friday, June 10, 2022
This is the story of two famous birds, the perils of fame and public exposure, and the depths to which human beings can sink.
It was to be the story of just one of those birds: Carl the Rooster, a former resident of Ocean Springs, Mississippi, in my home country. It now includes the late Barnyard Goose, in my county of residence, Davidson.
First of all Carl. As the Daily Mail in Britain reports (how famous is the rooster internationally?), it was a “mainstay” in the town center of Ocean Springs for a few years.
“He was known for strutting around town, doing a regular route that involved an early morning stop at the local bagel shop, sips of water at a few cafes, and even a visit to classes at the fitness center.”
His affability has made him a favorite of residents and visitors. Then one day in April, Carl was gone. Ocean Springs was unprepared.
“Never thought I would shed a tear for a rooster, but Carl deserves our tears,” Ocean Springs resident Tasia Kenosky wrote on Facebook. “He was happy, very kind and he brightened the days of so many people.”
Until he meets his killer(s). Surveillance cameras captured footage around 3 a.m. one day of a woman and several men fleeing with Carl. A separate video later revealed that Carl’s body was dumped in a truck stop parking lot.
Jones County, Mississippi Sheriff’s Office Juvenile Corrections Officer Kendra Shaffer was identified from the videos and charged with animal cruelty. Her employer promptly fired her.
I told all this to my wife, remarking what a strange series of events it was. It sounds a lot like the story of the goose at Old Hickory, she said, which led me to discover Barnyard.
Barnyard was a marina staple in Blue Turtle Bay, where it charmed people for over a decade.
In March 2021, Barnyard died in the marina parking lot. As with Carl’s disappearance, a surveillance camera provided a clue: video of the gruesome details of Barnyard’s death around 6 a.m.
It was clearly a targeted hit by a driver. The footage and a public tip led to the arrest of Nathan Paul Haskins, who freely admitted to the crime and was charged with aggravated animal cruelty, a felony.
Haskins, unsurprisingly, is not a likable character. In addition to being a convicted drug dealer and a probation violator for the offence, he has shown disregard for laws requiring drivers to be sober and have a valid license.
He also has a propensity to possess illegal controlled substances.
Oh…and Barnyard wasn’t his first case of aggravated animal cruelty. He slit a dog’s throat in 2013. Not fatally, thankfully, but it took 25 stitches to fix.
That’s where a hero enters the story: Laney Heard, an assistant Davidson County district attorney who handles animal abuse prosecutions. In this case, she knew she had a strong case. There was Haskins’ confession – multiple, in fact – and the video.
“He drove by and drove around ‘Baryard,’ Heard told me. “And he crushed it for fun.” “Evil,” she called him.
But there was also a complication. That first animal cruelty conviction, the dog Haskins slew? It was erased from his file.
Heard couldn’t use it against him. The maximum sentence he could have been sentenced to, had the case gone to trial, was two years.
And knowing the judge involved, Heard said Haskins ‘wouldn’t have had two years to serve’, despite ‘there really wasn’t a defense’.
She didn’t want Haskins to get probation. So she made a plea deal in which he would have to serve a one-year prison sentence. Additionally, he would go on an animal abuser registry and be unable – at least legally – to own an animal.
“That was actually a really good phrase,” she said. Haskins pleaded guilty May 26. He is now behind bars, which is probably his best habitat.
Back to Carl le Coq: A lawyer, Thomas V. Alonzo, for the accused pleaded not guilty for her and implied that things are not as simple as the video seems to indicate.
“My client is not guilty of any of the charges,” Alonzo told a hearing. “I love animals, and so does my client,” he said. “She would never participate in an act against a helpless bird, or any bird for that matter.”
His trial is scheduled for August. I’ll keep you up-to-date.
Joe Rogers is a former Tennessean writer and editor of The New York Times. He is retired and lives in Nashville. He can be contacted at [email protected]