Justice for 3 innocent children & 110 hoarded animals in Canton, Texas.

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CANTON, Texas - 110 cruelly treated animals were seized from a Canton-area property October 26, 2018 and their owners were arrested on charges for child endangerment and animal cruelty.

According to the SPCA of Texas, which took custody of the animals, 39 puppies, 35 dogs, 24 cats, 11 kittens, and one horse were seized.

In June 2018, the Child Protective Services, investigating a separate case, notified the SPCA of Texas of the large number of animals at the property. At the time, the SPCA was denied access to the inside of the residence and were not able to obtain enough evidence for probable cause to obtain a search warrant.

On October 19, 2018, the Van Zandt County Sheriff's Office notified the SPCA of new evidence which indicated unhealthy living conditions and potential animal cruelty at the property. With the new-fond evidence, a judge granted a search and seizure warrant which was executed yesterday, Friday, October 26, 2018.

"Many of the dogs were found roaming free inside the feces-filled, urine soaked living room of the residence with no access to food or water. Most of the cats were found inside of a bedroom with several litter boxes full of feces and no access to food or water. More dogs and several litters of puppies were found confined to large, wire crates inside the master bedroom of the residence. Another bedroom held a few cats and a single litter of kittens. Two dogs were kept in a large outdoor pen on the property and the remainder of the dogs were found in the backyard of the residence," according to a press release from the SPCA of Texas.

"The SPCA of Texas measured the ammonia level to be 279 parts per million (ppm) inside of the residence," read the release. "For a point of reference, short term exposure to any ammonia level over 20 ppm or long term exposure to any level over 12 ppm can cause health problems in humans."

The animals appear to be suffering from various health conditions, according to the SPCA of Texas, including hair loss, open sores, eye discharge, long nails, diarrhea and matted fur. "The owners of the animals were arrested at the scene for child endangerment and animal cruelty and were booked into Van Zandt County Jail," Thelma Jayne "Morrison" & Darrell Duff were being held on bonds totaling $100,000. Later on both posted bond.

An animal seizure hearing was held Monday, Nov. 5, in Canton resulting in the SPCA gaining custody of all animals and the owners ordered to pay $31,263.50 in restitution.

The Honorable Sandra Plaster, Justice of the Peace Pct. 2, presided over the case. VZC District Attorney-elect Tonda Curry represented the state.

Judge Plaster explained that the hearing was “to determine the custody of the animals seized Oct. 29 by the SPCA. Other charges forthcoming will be at the discretion of the district attorney’s office.”

Curry presented two exhibits, State Exhibit 1 being a written surrender and release agreement signed by a representative of the SPCA of Texas and the defendants, Jane and Daryl Duff. The defendants answered they signed the document freely and willingly. Curry then presented State Exhibit 2, which was a binder containing the identity of the 111 animals as well as veterinary assessment with their condition at the time of seizure as well as the state’s request for restitution. The restitution amount is $31,263.50.

The restitution does not include room and boarding fees, only the veterinary examination and care as a result of the seizure, explained Curry.

Judge Plaster informed the court that a granddaughter to the defendants that is currently in the hospital receiving care after a car crash, has asked for an animal that was seized.

“This is a sad situation with the children,” said Judge Plaster, “the court is praying for the child to get better. But, Mr. and Mrs. Duff, I will tell you with these animals, the way the home was, this is the best interest of the animals and I hope you understand that.”

A SPCA representative gave an update on the animals stating that “they are doing great, we have had animal one die, but we expect a full recovery from the others.”

Crash Claims 3 Lives:

The defendants, Thelma & Darrelll Duff, also had custody of their grandchildren, 11-year-old Elijah Tuma, 12-year-old Issiebella Tuma & 14-year-old Adam Tuma.

According to a CPS report, the children made several outcries about abuse at that home & deplorable living conditions from animal waste. CPS removed the children Oct. 25. On Friday, Oct. 26, the SPCA and Van Zandt Sheriff’s Office seized the animals.

On Oct. 30, CPA worker Connie Wells and two children, Elijah & Adam, were tragically killed in a car crash on Highway 19 near Edgewood. Issiebella was taken to Children’s Medical Center in Dallas with serious injuries.

Jessie Michael Brown, 19, of Fruitvale, was booked & released on bond Tuesday Nov. 6th , charged with 3 counts of manslaughter and one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
According to DPS, the driver of a truck, identified as Jessie Michael Brown, 19, of Fruitvale, started passing vehicles in a non passing zone and hit another truck head-on.

Update: Van Zandt County grand jury indicts Fruitvale man for 2018 crash that killed 3

VAN ZANDT COUNTY, Texas (KETK) - A Van Zandt County grand jury has returned three indictments for manslaughter and one for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon against Jesse Michael Brown of Fruitvale.

The indictments are the result of a 2018 crash that killed a Van Zandt County Child Protective Services worker and two children in CPS custody and injured a third child.

The crash occurred on November 6 on SH 19, north of I-20 and south of Highway 80. According to DPS, Brown started passing vehicles in a non passing zone and hit another vehicle head-on.

Killed in the crash were Connie Wells, 61, of Wills Point, Adam Tuma, 14, of Canton and Elijah Tuma, 11, also of Canton. Issiebella Tuma, 12, sustained life-threatening injuries.

Each charge against Brown is a second-degree felony carrying a punishment rage of not less than two nor more than 20 years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

"While nothing will heal the hearts of those in our community who love Ms. Wells and these children, the Van Zandt County District Attorney's Office will prosecute these indictments on behalf of our community and fight to fulfill our duty to see that justice is done," said District Attorney Tonya Curry.

We the people ask that the felony & misdemeanor charges for Thelma & Darrell Duff on child endangerment & animal cruelty. Not be reduced or to accept a plea deal. That they be prosecuted & sentenced to the fullest of the courts ability, & banned from ever owning animals again.

We the people ask that the felony charges on Jesse Brown for manslaughter & one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Not be reduced or to accept a plea deal. That they he prosecuted & sentenced to the fullest of the courts ability, & banned from ever owning a drivers license again.

Change will NOT happen until we start making people like this accountable for their actions. Three innocent children were the center of all this, along with 110 animals. All neglected & lost in the bureaucratic system that was supposed to protect them. To prevent this from happening to anyone else, we must stand together. We hope that this will lead to better laws & awareness for animals, esp in Van Zandt County & Canton, Texas. That when a child cries out for help, that their voices are heard & NOT dismissed. Let alone when someone breaks the law speeding in a NO passing lane, causing 3 deaths. We hold them accountable for their actions & NOT allow a slap on the wrist. Driving laws are there for a reason & more deaths will keep happening. Until the legal system & courts enforce full sentencing. Sending the message "That the county & city take vehicle wrecks causing death like this one is UNACCEPTABLE".

Personal Story
Since the first CPS intake investigation on Thelma & Darrell Duff October 8, 2016. For allegations of physical neglect of Adam, Issiebella & Elijah Tuma. With reports of excessive number of animals in the home, creating a safety & health hazard for the children. Then adding to the CPS intake investigation for 2/28/17, 6/15/17, 11/30/17, 2/21/18, 3/27/18, 5/23/18, 8/29/18, & 9/19/19. All were based on physical & emotional abuse, child endangerment/neglect, to the children smelling of urine from the excessive amount of animals at school. Down to Issiebella who is Type 1 Diabetic being physically neglected & neglectful supervision of having her blood sugars not being managed appropriately.

From the first CPS intake Thelma & Darrell had more then enough chances to prevent the outcome on the children's removal on October 25, 2018 & animal seizure of 110 animals on October 26, 2018. Instead they ignored CPS reports with requests to limit the number of animals & re-home many of them. They continued with physical & verbal abuse even with CPS intervention & services to assist them. Further more they ignored the schools concerns & dismissed them.


CPS had close to a dozen calls reporting abuse & neglect on these children. Yet they would close the case only to have another one open up. We want to know why did it take so long to remove these children? With most of the calls to CPS from the children's schools, CPS still did NOTHING! Further more the parents documented the conditions of the home. Leading to one of them calling SPCA & sending all pictures w/ information to a CPS case worker Robyn Watson June 2017. Shortly after that the parents received a letter stating the case was closed.

When CPS finally decided to remove the children at court on October 25, 2018. The children even though CPS knew the condition of the home were dangerous. Left the children there for several more weeks until the court hearing. Why didn't CPS remove the children sooner, esp since one was is a type 1 diabetic. Who in a CPS complaint wasn't having her diabetes managed properly & was putting her health in jeopardy?

To make matters even worse, since June 2017 the parents didn't get any more letters for open cases from CPS. Finally when the mother got a letter literally less than 2 weeks before court on October 25th. The letter stated that her whereabouts we unknown & they were trying to reach her. Please keep in mind she has been at the same residence for 7 years & same job for 3 years. There was NO excuse for them to say they couldn't find her. The father never got any paper work regarding the court case to his residence. The excuses from CPS for improperly informing the parents is NUMEROUS! 

Currently CPS has NO intentions of working to send the remaining child home. They have sadly been playing both parents while giving different information. Going as far as to limiting communications so that she bonds more with her foster family. That was their goal from the beginning of it all, to do as they please disregarding the law. They have accused the parents countless times of using drugs, when ALL tests are NEGATIVE. They have brought up accusations with out evidence of it's origins. The goal is to be REUNIFICATION, however as we speak the 12 yr old is still in Texas. CPS HAS NOT disclosed to her the truth in regards to the entire case. Mainly being the her grandparents with held phone calls, letters, gifts sent to the children. Instead telling them that their parents didn't care, that esp their mother didn't care for them. All the while the parents were fighting with the grandparents & trying to get CPS to remove the children. It's a sad day when the system set in place to protect children, withholds the truth that severely alters the case. The 12 yr old girl went from telling a judge with her brothers she wanted to go home to Ohio. The losing her brothers & being taught what adoptions is. That signing over rights is just a piece of paper. The battle is far from over, & NO one is planning to sign anything!

For Jesse Brown, he made the conscious decision to speed into oncoming traffic in a NO passing lane & WITHOUT car insurance. This was NOT an accident, nor is him being 19 years old an excuse. Jesse Brown is a legal adult not a minor, & took 3 innocent lives that can never be brought back. Many of his supports have stated the Jesse is on house arrest & in a wheelchair unable to walk. That Jesse is already suffering, basically asking us to let him off. Jesse Brown is NOT wheelchair bound, he has a walking boot & crutches.