Arrest of sheriff’s investigator could jeopardize cases he’s involved in
BY LAUREN FITZPATRICK Sun-Times Media email@example.com March 19, 2012 2:15PM
Updated: March 19, 2012 10:16PM
The arrest of a Cook County sheriff’s animal crimes investigator may derail the animal neglect case against the owner of Dazzle’s Painted Pastures near Tinley Park.
Judge C.J. Donnelly, who’s been nudging attorneys for months to resolve the misdemeanor case against Dawn Hamill, on Monday gave her attorney, Purav Bhatt, a few weeks to prepare motions to have the case thrown out, Bhatt said.
The case had been set to wrap up Monday in Cook County Circuit Court in Markham. Now Hamill will return to court on April 2.
Sheriff’s investigator Larry Draus was the key witness against Hamill, who’s facing trial on accusations she left eight puppies in an unheated garage in February 2011.
Draus testified during the trial on March 7 that when he entered Hamill’s animal sanctuary, 5555 W. 175th St. in Bremen Township, he also found a miniature horse dead in its barn stall and a dead Himalayan cat in an adjacent tack room.
Draus was arrested March 13 on federal extortion charges, accused with his son, Larry Draus Jr., of trafficking cigarettes. He was relieved of his duties and suspended after his arrest, sheriff’s spokesman Frank Bilecki said.
Draus, a 35-year sheriff’s veteran, worked full time with his partner Tyra Brown for the Sheriff’s Animal Crimes Unit, a two-man outfit created in July 2007 in response to a growing issue of dogfighting in the area.
The unit’s first case resulted in the removal of 37 dogs from a home in South Holland, at the time the largest seizure of fighting dogs in the state of Illinois and the fourth largest in the nation, according to the sheriff’s office.
Among his 14 pending cases is that of a Park Forest veterinarian who is charged with failing to report suspicions of dogfighting in animals he was treating.
Bilecki said prosecutors are reviewing all of the cases involving Draus.
“With all the video and photos taken at the scene, we believe the cases are going to be solid and should not be affected,” he said.
The animal crimes unit will continue, Bilecki said, though a replacement for Draus has not yet been named.