17 October 2023- Two Needmore residents are facing felonies after Pennsylvania State Police Troopers are called to investigate them for animal cruelty and find them to have multiple dead horses on their property. Diontra Cornelius Martin and Jennifer Lynn Martin are both charged with three counts of felony aggravated cruelty to animals causing death, misdemeanor neglect of animals by not providing sustenance or water, and summary neglect of animals by not providing sustenance or water. Both Martins are free on unsecured bails of $50,000.
Pennsylvania State Police were alerted to a potential case of animal abuse on May 12th and talked to a witness who allegedly told them he was traveling past the property of Diontra and Jennifer Martin when he saw two dead horses on their property on Barnhart Road, Belfast Township.
Troopers began an investigation and spoke to Jennifer Martin, who allegedly told them they had a 25 year old horse, and a 3 year old horse which they fed twice a day. They also had, according to Martin, a 30 year old horse that was sick and eventually shot by her husband, Diontra Martin. The latter Martin had allegedly disposed of the carcass a few weeks prior.
Jennifer Martin continued talking with the officer, reportedly telling him their feeding routine but changing small details of the routine along the way. Martin also allegedly told the officer that a vet had not been to their home for a while but the couple’s friend had given them their shots. Additionally, police say Martin told them she had the horse’s hooves trimmed but had not had their teeth looked at for two or so years.
That is when officers allegedly found a blue tarp in a pasture behind their house that had a dead horse underneath it. Another horse, determined to be a foal, was also dead on the property inside of a pen, about 20 feet from the other horse. Police estimated the foal had been dead about 2-3 months due to decomposition.
Police continued asking about feeding as well as care of the remaining horses, of which there were two. Again, police say that Martin gave multiple different answers and stories as to her feeding habits.
Diontra Martin was interviewed after Jennifer, with him showing police another horse carcass they had, which died about a year ago. Troopers subsequently found the carcass underneath a large amount of scrap metal and scrap wood that had decomposed to the bone. While police say that Martin told them he had the horse under the tarp shot, they say that decomposition and bowel movements show the horse had died where it was, which was now underneath the tarp.
Police photographed the scene, allegedly including the fact the dead horse under the tarp didn’t have a gunshot wound, suggesting it had died of some other cause. Additionally, police found 10 inches of fecal matter and urine in the rundown barn that was used as a pen. That barn had no trough for drinking but instead had a free flowing spring that ran through the pasture for all water needs. It was later revealed that a vet had found significant evidence that the spring was not clean enough for drinking water due to contamination from fecal matter, urine, and the deceased horses decomposing into it.
Police allegedly found multiple other corroborating accounts of neglect from the farm, including from witnesses, a McConnellsburg veterinarian, and other people in the area. They all reportedly attested to malnutrition of the remaining horses and improper care and disposal for the deceased horses.
Diontra and Jennifer Martin are free on unsecured bails of $50,000 each. Their preliminary hearings are set for October 30th.
Sources: Docket Number: MJ-39403-CR-0000058-2023, Incident No.: PA 2023-616603, Docket Number: MJ-39403-CR-0000057-2023