BRATTLEBORO — The state has agreed to drop animal-cruelty charges against the former owner of Santa's Land if payments made to people now in the care of the animals are made.
"We've picked dates already that are reasonable," Lillian Billewicz, 57, of Westminster, told Judge Katherine Hayes. "I'm employed. I'm tutoring for college students in the Rutland area so it will work."
A schedule mapped out Monday at the Windham County Superior Court Criminal Division includes payments of $3,082 for three donkeys, $4,992 for three ponies and $13,261 for a llama. She was previously ordered to pay $32,839 in restitution to the Vermont Veterans Home in Bennington.
The state will be dismissing the case without prejudice with no intention on bringing it back as long as Billewicz makes payments to "the foster parents for lack of better word," State's Attorney Tracy Shriver said in court. The animal caretakers and the Windham County Humane Society will be taking in animals that were not the subject of a forfeiture in 2014.
"I will voluntarily offer those animals and it's a mutual agreement," Billewicz told Hayes . "It's unfortunate this whole thing had to come about. Thank you."
Windham County Sheriff Keith Clark said his deputies found 16 dead deer, as well as a dead pheasant and a pot-bellied pig, when they arrived at the theme park on Route 5 in March 2014.
The Windham County Sheriff's Department conducted a search of Santa's Land after Deputy Trevor Dickerman went there a day earlier to look for animal caretaker, Brian Deistler, who had lost his license plate in a minor traffic accident. Dickerman went to Santa's Land looking for Deistler to return the plate. When Dickerman was at Santa's Land he reported back to Clark that "things did not look right," which led them to discover the dead animals.
Hayes said the state will only bring back charges against Billewicz if there is a violation of the agreement.
"It's not the standard restitution order in the usual form," Shriver said. "But it's certainly in the interest of justice."
A letter from the donkeys' caretakers reported that "all of them are doing well both physically and emotionally."
Contact Chris Mays at email@example.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.