Mass. firefighter charged with fatally poisoning neighbors' chickens
CARLISLE, Mass. -- A 17-year veteran of the Carlisle Fire Department was placed on administrative leave after he was arrested and charged with killing 11 of his neighbor's chickens by feeding them food pellets laced with rat poison, according to Carlisle police.
Frank Sargent, 66, of 734 Lowell St., who also owns a general-contracting business in town, was charged July 28 with 11 counts of malicious killing of a domestic animal.
The poisoning deaths of 10 egg-laying hens and a rooster occurred over a four-month period, from April into July, during which Sargent's late-night actions of distributing poison pellets in his neighbors' backyard chicken coop were captured on video, police said.
Sargent was arraigned on the charges in Concord District Court on Wednesday. He was ordered by the judge to have no further contact with his neighbors, Brendan Mirfield and Amanda DeFreest, the engaged couple who own the chicken coop next door, at 718 Lowell St.
Sargent was placed on administrative leave on July 30 by the Carlisle Fire Department, "pending the resolution of his personal issue," Fire Chief David Flannery said.
As an on-call firefighter/EMT, Sargent is only paid for those calls he responds to, making this involuntary leave the equivalent of an unpaid suspension, Flannery noted.
The digital images of Sargent's alleged criminal actions were obtained from an infrared game camera that police installed near the chicken coop with the cooperation of the homeowners, according to the six-page police report compiled by the investigating officers, Sgt. Scott Barnes, Detective Richard Tornquist, and Officer Christopher Arguoyan.
"From April 29, 2014, to July 22, 2014, it was reported that 11 total chickens had died, including one rooster and 10 laying hens," Arguoyan wrote in his report. "The following is a timeline of the chicken deaths: April 29, one hen found dead; May 2, three hens found dead; May 8, three hens found dead, two sent for autopsies; June 22, one rooster, one hen found dead; June 24, two hens found dead."
After first denying any involvement in the deaths of the chickens during an interview at the Carlisle police station on July 28, Sargent, when confronted with the video and photographic evidence showing his alleged late-night activities on his neighbors' property, fully confessed to the crime, Barnes wrote.
"I couldn't sleep. I couldn't take it anymore," Sargent was quoted in the police report, speaking to Barnes. "I did what you said: I mixed mouse poison with bird seed and... brought it over in a bucket and just threw it in (the chicken coop)."
Scott also reported that during the July 28 interview, he confronted Sargent with further video evidence showing that on one occasion, late at night on July 11, Sargent wore a raincoat and donned a headlamp while dousing the chicken coop with a can of wasp and hornet-killer spray.
Sargent then also admitted to dousing the chickens with the insect spray, according to the police report.
"I know it sounds crazy, but I got to the point where I thought the bird was mocking me. So I sprayed it with hornet spray just to make it stop," Sargent was quoted saying in the Carlisle police sergeant's report.
While Sargent was on the phone with his sister on the day of his arrest, Scott reported that he overheard Sargent say, "I (screwed) up. I just couldn't take it anymore, and I killed the chickens," according to the police report.
On Monday, two members of Sargent's family, who spoke with The Sun at the front door of Sargent's home, said Sargent and the family had no comment.
When contacted by phone Monday about the deaths of their chickens, DeFreest said she and her fiancé, Mirfield, had no comment to make about Sargent's arrest, based the advice of their attorney.
DeFreest said the chicken coop was installed about two-and-a-half years ago, and contained two dozen chickens before the deaths of the 10 hens and rooster. Some of the surviving chickens are also in ill health and suffering, and may need to be put down, DeFreest said.
In the police report, Mirfield and DeFreest told Tornquist their estimate of the monetary losses from the deaths of their chickens, toxicology lab-testing, and contaminated feed and eggs thrown away, totaled about $835. But that amount is "going up every day," the couple said.
"(DeFreest) also stated that the monetary losses do not even compare to the emotional distress of seeing pets suffer and die," wrote Tornquist, quoting DeFreest, in his report.
Tornquist reported a baggie containing samples of the green and blue pellets that Sargent tossed in the coop was sent to the State Police Crime Lab for testing.
The chicken coop in the backyard of Mirfield and DeFreest, which is visible from Lowell Street, is surrounded by a high chain-link fence that stands about 20 feet from a high cedar fence that divides Mirfield's and Sargent's properties.
A search of the archives of the Carlisle Mosquito, a nonprofit newspaper serving Carlisle that is published twice a month, shows that in August and September of 2012, Sargent and DeFreest each wrote letters to the editor regarding Sargent's complaints that he and family members were being deprived of sleep at all hours of the night by his neighbors' rooster's "incessant crowing," Sargent wrote.
Responding to Sargent's letter, DeFreest wrote the newspaper, "We've been putting the rooster in his box every night, which has drastically decreased and muffled his crow. To say that we are being indecent and discourteous is far from fair, or the truth."
In the months and years leading up to his arrest, Sargent contacted and appeared before the town's Board of Health several times, and called Carlisle police repeatedly to his neighbors' residence with noise complaints about the roosters, according to town records.
As part of his investigation into the poisonings, Sgt. Barnes said that he asked Sargent if he could recall a "casual conversation" the two had this past spring in which Sargent "jokingly made a statement to me that he was 'going to mix poison in with bird seed and throw it over the fence,'" Barnes wrote.
Sargent responded "no," he did not recall making such a statement, Barnes reported.
Prior to Barnes showing Sargent the video evidence against him, Sargent stated that "he loves animals, would never hurt them, and he does not eat animals because he is a member of PETA," Barnes wrote in his report.
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