UPDATE: Geoffrey Peterson back in Hamilton County facing charges - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: Geoffrey Peterson back in Hamilton County facing charges

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HAMILTON COUNTY, TN (WRCB) - UPDATE: Five months ago, McKamey Animal Shelter Executive Director Jamie McAloon and her team rescued Joel and six of his friends from a Hamilton County home covered in filth.

The dogs didn't have food or water. Animal remains were also found inside.

“We opened that dark door and he looked at us like a wild animal. He's come a long way,” McAloon said.

This is Joel now, as you can see, he's doing a lot better and is ready for a forever home.

For the team that saved Joel and his friends, this case is one of the worst they've ever seen.

“I mean, I just can't imagine how anyone can go to sleep at night knowing those animals were in rooms, dark with no air flow, no light, with inches of fecal matter. They were eating their wooden houses. They were eating the plastic chairs,” she added.

McAloon says her team built a solid case around the people they believe are responsible.

She recommended the district attorney bring 11 charges against Geoffrey Peterson and his mother.

Geoffrey Peterson pleaded guilty to 3 counts of aggravated animal cruelty in a Sequatchie County court Wednesday. He was given 5 years total of probation for all 3 counts. He is not allowed to own or possess an animal during this time. 

“The case itself was a good case. There's an ample amount of evidence and witnesses and the rehabilitation of the animals proved that all they needed was some food, water and veterinary care,” she said.

But no charges have been filed.

The statute of limitations allows District Attorney Neal Pinkston two years to file charges.

He explained to Channel 3 he wants to wait to see what happens with pending cases in other jurisdictions and on the federal level before moving forward.

“Federal prison sentences are much longer than state prison sentences and there's no parole eligibility in a federal penitentiary,” Pinkston added.

Pinkston says he's just as aggressive with animal cruelty cases as with any other crime.

As McAloon waits for justice in this case, she continues to watch the victims of this crime heal physically and emotionally and work to find three of the 14 dogs they saved a new home.

“These animals endured a lot and it was not necessary and it certainly isn't forgivable,” McAloon said.

Peterson was booked at the Hamilton County Jail on a charge of willful abuse, neglect or exploitation of an adult.

The charge is in connection to the care of his father. Peterson will appear in court on that case later this month.

Geoffrey Peterson who pleaded guilty to 3 counts of aggravated animal cruelty in a Sequatchie County court Wednesday now awaits his fate in Hamilton County.  Peterson was brought back to face charges of willful abuse, neglect or exploitation of an adult. 

READ MORE | Suspect in hoarding case faces more charges, along with his mother

PREVIOUS STORY: Geoffrey Peterson pleaded guilty to 3 counts of aggravated animal cruelty in a Sequatchie County court Wednesday.

He was given 5 years total of probation for all 3 counts. He is not allowed to own or possess an animal during this time. 

The Sequatchie County Court clerk tells Channel 3 Peterson is being extradited to Hamilton County for charges.

PREVIOUS STORY: The lawyer of accused animal hoarder Geoffrey Peterson did not request bond Friday morning in a Sequatchie County court.

Peterson will have no chance of getting out of jail at least until the court decides to hear his request next month.
    
Assistant District Attorney Steve Strain, who is arguing against his case, made sure Peterson wasn't given any special promises by turning himself in.

"I do not make agreements with someone who is on the run," Strain said, "I don't say, well we'll agree to a bond if they turn themselves in."
     
Wherever he was hiding while on the run from police, Peterson is keeping it a secret. Along with why he decided to turn himself in.

"Mr. McGowan said he was going to turn himself in and I don't know what motivated that."
     
The sheriff says he got a tip he might have been hiding out in Nashville. Wherever he was, Sheriff Hitchcock believes he was nowhere close to home.
     
Peterson's lawyer, Ben McGowan, would not comment on where he was or what's happening in the case, he said we will hear his defense during a preliminary hearing in April.

"I anticipate it might be a relatively lengthy hearing." McGowan told the judge.

So far Peterson's only request was to speak with his terminally ill father, Dr. Walter Peterson.

"He had his attorneys ask if he could make contact with his father," Sheriff Hitchcock said, "If he could use the phone."
     
Peterson's parents have not been connected any of his charges in Sequatchie County.
     
Those charges include animal cruelty and possession of morphine.
   
Only those charges will be heard during the preliminary hearing in April. That hearing will decide if his case will go before a grand jury.

His preliminary hearing has been set for April 28.

The judge also let Huckabee Bonding off the hook for the $10,000 bond they made on Peterson's behalf. The bond that he skipped out on while on the run from police.

Peterson remains in the Sequatchie County jail.

PREVIOUS STORY: Geoffrey Peterson, the man accused of abusing and hoarding over 60 animals in Sequatchie County has turned himself in after several weeks on the run.

He was wanted by several law enforcement agencies after he failed to appear in court January 29th. Peterson turn himself into the Sequatchie County Sheriff's office around 12:30 Central Time. Sheriff Ronnie Hitchcock tells Channel 3, he showed up with two attorneys. Those attorneys advised him not to make any statements, so at this time investigators do not know why Peterson missed his court date or where he's been all this time. 

Officials say they're relieved the search for Peterson is finally over.

Peterson will face an additional charge of failure to appear in court that's in addition to the 4 counts of aggravated animal cruelty, one count of animal cruelty and one count of felony possession of morphine, he was charged with when deputies raided his Dunlap home back in December. 

Deputies said more than 60 dogs, 6 cats, a parrot, and a goat were rescued from Peterson's property. According to the sheriff the animals were living in deplorable conditions. 

He said it was the worst case of animal hoarding and abuse he's ever seen. Many of the rescued animals are now ready for adoption. Peterson will face a judge Friday in General Sessions Court.

PREVIOUS STORY: The man charged in a Sequatchie County animal hoarding case is wanted by several law enforcement agencies and Friday, Geoffrey Peterson didn't show up for court.

Geoffrey Peterson faces a number of charges after more than 80 animals were found living in deplorable conditions some dead.

Officials say they are giving him one more chance before his case is bound over to the grand jury.

PREVIOUS STORY: Sequatchie County Sheriff  Ronnie Hitchcock says that Geoffrey Peterson, the man accused of abusing and hoarding more than 50 animals in Sequatchie County, is now wanted by several law enforcement agencies.

Peterson's bond for the charges in Sequatchie County was revoked in General Sessions Court Thursday morning.

Peterson is described by police as a 55 year old white male, 5'-6”, approximately 150 pounds, light brown hair, hazel eyes.

Anyone with information regarding the whereabouts of Peterson is urged to contact the Sequatchie County Sheriff's Office, Chattanooga Police Department, or the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office.

Police say do not approach Peterson, he may be armed.

Geoffrey Peterson was out on bond when DEA agents and local law enforcement raided his two Hixson businesses last Friday, and issued a warrant for his arrest.

Chattanooga police want Peterson for willful abuse and neglect of an elderly person, saying his 89-year-old father, Dr. Walter Peterson, was not properly cared for.

"He was not there at the time we entered the home. And he has not been seen since," said Investigator Annette Sowrey, who is working with Adult Protective Services in the investigation.

This week the Tennessee Department of Health suspended Geoffrey Peterson's nursing license until further notice, stating his misconduct is "so severe it requires emergency action in order to protect the public health." The order references to an apparent impaired judgement by prescribing high amounts of controlled substances and unsanitary conditions.
The order shows Peterson has been a registered nurse since March, 1994 and his license was due to expire in October.

The state says Peterson's actions cause a "serious and immediate danger to the public's health."

During the animal rescue in Sequatchie County police found morphine, pre-filled syringes and several bags of used needles.
"We have been to the residence that he owns here and have had no contact with him," said Sheriff Ronnie Hitchcock, Sequatchie County, "No one has actually seen him in this county. I don't believe he is in this county."

Peterson must stop all medical practicing immediately. His two businesses, Holistic Health and Primary Care and Hormone Replacement Specialists, both in Hixson, were recently raided by DEA, TBI and other law enforcement agencies.

The order names Peterson a top 50 prescriber of morphine equivalents in TN from 2013-2014. Peterson wrote a response letter to the state after being names a top 50 prescriber, as cited in the order, where he says he has no intention of curbing his prescribing practices.

"We hope that Mr. Peterson will simply turn himself in," said Asst. DA Steve Strain, "And as far as priority in terms of prosecution, we'll work that out once he's in custody."

PREVIOUS STORY: The man at the center of the Sequatchie County animal hoarding case is now under investigation by federal authorities.

The DEA, TBI and other agencies spent Friday morning serving warrants at several places connected to Geoffrey Peterson.

The DEA said the 54-year-old registered family nurse practitioner is part of an ongoing federal investigation but would not elaborate.

Agents served warrants Friday at three places traced back to Peterson. They first went to his parents' home in the Ramsgate subdivision in Hixson. Then they went to Highway 153 where Peterson owns two businesses.

Authorities served a warrant at Hormone Replacement Specialists and at Holistic Health and Primary Care.

Neighboring business owners to Holistic Health and Primary Care speculate the raid may have to do with a pill operation. They told Channel 3 they've seen investigators in unmarked cars in their parking lot for months.

Juanita Johnson at CJ's Salon and Spa said she would see sketchy activity in the parking lot with people standing outside for hours at a time. She said she hopes the business is gone for good, citing fear of being robbed by some of Peterson's patrons.

"You could get just about any pill that you wanted I guess. That's been the rumors," Johnson said. "You could tell when people walked through the door that they were on something."

Another woman who works next door to Peterson's other business on Highway 153 said she had very little interaction with the nurse practitioner. Janelle Holland, owner of Incredible Cartridge, said she doesn't know why the DEA served a warrant on his business.

"Police and DEA came in looking for Dr. Peterson and asked if I had seen him today, which I hadn't, which is very abnormal. He's usually here at 8 o'clock or earlier," Holland said. "It's a little bit nerve-wracking to have all that going on next door and not even know anything about it."

The DEA would not comment on the case other than to say Peterson is part of an ongoing federal investigation. The TBI referred all inquiries to the DEA.

Chattanooga Police, the Hamilton County Sheriff's Department, Tennessee Highway Patrol, Adult Protective Services and McKamey also assisted.

State records show Geoffrey Peterson lists his dad, 89-year-old Walter Peterson, as the supervising doctor at Holistic Health. Federal agents also served a warrant on Walter's Hixson home where he lives with his 88-year-old wife. Sources told Channel 3 Walter is in poor health and had to be taken to a hospital to be checked.

McKamey officers were also on scene to check on the dozen cats and dogs inside the parents' home. They said the animals were all in good health and issued a warning to Mrs. Peterson to get city tags for the dogs.

Peterson has not been arrested or charged with any crime connected to Friday's raids.
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