A Morgan County man accused of throwing a tote bag filled with puppies off of a bridge last month will not face charges after the grand jury failed to reach a consensus and did not indict him when they convened on Tuesday, according to 9th District Attorney General Russell Johnson.
As we have previously reported, 24-year-old Tyler Underwood was originally charged with six counts of animal cruelty after a passerby found the tote bag, with five dead puppies and one live one inside, which appeared to have been tossed off a bridge in the Burrville community sometime in late December onto the frozen creek bed below.
Investigators sought and received tips from the public, including one that led them to Facebook post in which Underwood was trying to give away puppies from an unwanted litter. When interviewed by investigators, Underwood said he had only been able to get rid of one of the puppies.
In a press release also shared on Facebook, Johnson wrote, in part: “In Tennessee it takes at least twelve of thirteen grand jurors to return an indictment. By law, the deliberations of the grand jury and their vote is secret. However, the law is that if even two of the thirteen vote not to return a True Bill indictment, this results in a ‘No Bill’ of the indictment, meaning that no criminal charges will be forthcoming.”
(9th District Attorney General Russell Johnson statement) The Morgan County Grand Jury was impaneled by Morgan County Criminal Court Judge Jeff Wicks on Tuesday morning then went to work hearing testimony from deputies, officers, troopers and investigators on more than twenty cases ranging from DUI to Second Degree Murder overdose cases. Included in the mix were drug charges, a kidnapping and rape, as well as other charges. Also presented to the grand jury was the case involving Tyler Underwood and the death of five puppies.
Tyler Underwood was charged with Aggravated Animal Cruelty, a Class E felony, in the intentional killing of five of six puppies that were less than four months old when Underwood allegedly placed them in a plastic tote and threw them off of a bridge in the Burrville community where they landed on the frozen creek below the bridge. One of the puppies survived. The animals were discovered by a passer-by and reported to the authorities. When interviewed, Underwood claimed that he had tried to give away the unwanted litter of seven puppies, going so far as to place a photo with post on Facebook. He was able to give away one of the litter, but when he was unsuccessful in giving away more, he proceeded to dispose of the remaining six in the manner described above.
Upon being notified of the discovery, investigators were able to then track the puppies back to Underwood using the same Facebook post along with an anonymous tip. The Morgan County Grand Jury, upon hearing the presentation from law enforcement, voted not return a ‘True Bill’ on the indictment prepared by the District Attorney that would have charged Underwood with the felony aggravated animal cruelty. In Tennessee it takes at least twelve of thirteen grand jurors to return an indictment. By law, the deliberations of the grand jury and their vote is secret. However, the law is that if even two of the thirteen vote not to return a True Bill indictment, this results in a ‘No Bill’ of the indictment, meaning that no criminal charges will be forthcoming.
Of the twenty cases presented the Morgan County grand jury returned No Bills on six of the cases.
Those persons who were indicted on charges will appear in Morgan County Criminal Court on Monday, January 23rd to be arraigned.