Man who starved cattle ordered to pay restitution


CASTLE ROCK, Colo. (AP) A Denver man who starved 13 pregnant cows and several calves to death has been ordered to pay $32,000 in restitution to the two Texas ranching families who owned the animals.

Benedict Palen pleaded guilty in December to a charge of cruelty to animals. He declined to comment Thursday after his sentencing by Douglas County Judge Susanna Meissner-Cutler.

Palen was also sentenced to 12 months of unsupervised probation and 100 hours of public service.

In October 1998, the families entrusted Palen to take care of 112 adult cows and seven calves at his 3,000-acre Sterling Ranch in northern Douglas County, said Eddie Price, who represented the cattle owners. That was because drought conditions were severe in Texas.

The families chose Palen to care for the cattle after spotting his land advertisement in a livestock journal, Price said.

The families, including Price's, promised to give Palen 60 percent of the calves born to the cattle in exchange for the use of the grazing land and Palen's care.

But within two months, the cows which were sharing the land with about 400 other cattle belonging to other owners ate all the dead grass and wheat stubble on the ground, said John Maulsby, assistant state veterinarian for the Colorado Department of Agriculture. Palen never replenished their food supply or water, Maulsby said.

The cattle were so thirsty they tore down a fence to get to water on the other side, Maulsby said. In addition to the 13 pregnant cows and calves that died, about 100 others were left weak and undernourished.

Price said his family entrusted Palen with 65 of their ''best'' cattle. His cousin, Lonnie Bloodworth, was awarded $13,783. The other family, James and Kathy Pentecost, from Robert Lee, Texas, were awarded $18,242. The Pentecosts were friends of Price's family.

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