MARYVILLE, Tn – General Sessions Judge Robert Headrick denied Larry Joe Wheelon’s Motion To Suppress evidence gathered in the April 18, 2013, raid on Wheelon’s Tennessee Walking Horse training operation. In his bench ruling, Judge Headrick stated that Wheelon’s training barn was a business which was open to the public. Consequently, any citizen visiting the barn who witnessed signs of horse soring and animal cruelty would be presumed reliable. Judge Headrick ruled that under these standards that probable cause did exist to justify a Search Warrant for authorities to search Larry Joe Wheelon’s barn and inspect horses stabled there and to seize items related to soring horses.
HONORABLE GENERAL SESSIONS JUDGE ROBERT L. HEADRICK PRESIDING
And with that ruling, Judge Headrick told Assistant District Attorney Ellen Berez to call her first witness and put on proof that crimes were committed by Larry Joe Wheelon. The matter before the Court is a Preliminary Hearing to determine if Wheelon’s actions justify the Judge binding the case over to a Blount County Grand Jury to consider indictment of Larry Joe Wheelon for committing alleged crimes.
USDA OFFICE OF INSPECTOR GENERAL SPECIAL AGENT JUDY MCMILLIAN TESTIFYING
Berez called USDA OIG Special Agent Judy McMillian to the witness stand. Agent McMillian testified that on April 17, 2013, she visited Wheelon’s training barn, and the doors were wide open, and she went in and inquired if she could rent a stall to board a horse. While looking at the facility, McMillian witnessed horses with their legs wrapped in cellophane covered by leg wraps, and other indications that the horses were sored. Using cellophane to wrap the pastern area is a common method used by Trainers to sore Tennessee Walking Horses to obtain the “Big Lick”.
Berez also called retired DEA Agent Gino Bachman, who has sold Larry Wheelon hay, and has been in Wheelon’s barn where he observed sore horses in their stalls. Bachman is also Blount County SPCA President.
More developments on Thursday.