Two signs direct vehicles down Winkles Road in Sumter.
One is for the Sumter County Sheriff's Office Detention Center, where a 38-year-old man awaited his bond hearing Tuesday on 57 warrants, the other for Sumter County Animal Control, where 26 …
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One is for the Sumter County Sheriff's Office Detention Center, where a 38-year-old man awaited his bond hearing Tuesday on 56 warrants, the other for Sumter County Animal Control, where 26 dogs he is accused of using in an animal-fighting operation are being treated. The 27th had to be put down that morning when an infection spread from one of the animal's legs to the rest of its body.
Alva Timmons Ridgeway stood silent and straight-faced, staring forward toward Magistrate Judge Larry Blanding as he set a $127,000 bond combined from 56 charges related to the reported dog fighting opreation and another $10,000 for a possession of a stolen vehicle charge. Two women sat behind him, three more waiting in the lobby. The two work at animal control, the three with Sumter-based Carolina Helping Paws Rescue.
No one attended for Ridgeway.
Of those 56 warrants, one for possession of a firearm or ammunition by a person convicted of a violent felony, 24 for misdemeanor ill treatment of animals-overworking, 27 counts of animal fighting and baiting, 1 count of facilitating animal fighting and baiting and three for felony ill treatment of animals-torture.
Sumter County Sheriff's Office Investigator Robert Reynolds told Blanding during the 2 p.m. bond hearing that the dogs, all pit bulls and pit bull mixes, found at Ridgeway's Lowder Road when deputies originally went to serve him an outstanding bench warrant for failure to pay child support suffer from an infection due to their shelters sitting in a swamp. They're suffering from bite marks and gash wounds, fleas and fungus.
"Some are in pretty bad shape, and some are in fair condition," he said.
Search warrants revealed a pit in the garage that was "covered in blood." There were treadmills, bite sticks used to pull animal teeth loose from other animals, 27 chains that are too large according to the county's tethering law, an AR15-style rifle, a shotgun and another firearm and more equipment commonly used in dog-fighting operations.
"I'm not sure if it's ignorance of the law or what," Reynolds said. "The investigation is still going."
Blanding set bond with the condition Ridgeway, who has signed the dogs over to the county, have no contact with any animals as the case remains open. His first appearance in general sessions court is set for Aug. 2 at 8:30 a.m.
Reynolds said after the hearing a $127,000 bond is a large amount for his area of investigating crimes against animals. The last guy, he said, had more than 50 dogs and got a $30,000 bond. He said the investigation was able to present the judge with plenty of information to help him make the decision.
Ridgeway couldn't have been denied bond because, having lived in Sumter his whole life, he does not appear to be a flight risk, and the crimes he is accused of were not for murder or something that puts humans in danger.
He was convicted in 1999 of assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature after he pled guilty.
One rescued dog, all of which are being cared for at the county animal control by the county veterinarian, appears to have recently given birth or miscarried and has a life-threatening UTI. After the dog that was put down Tuesday morning, Reynolds said, another one was likely following.
He said Ridgeway has neither a permit for pig hunting nor a hunting permit.
Ridgeway also was handed 21 magistrate court tickets for violating the county tethering ordinance and 21 more for violating the inoculation ordinance. In total, the investigation so far has racked up 99 tickets or charges.
Compared to the size of other dog and animal fighting cases Reynolds investigates in the county, "this is average."
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