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Argos farmer seeks fair outcome

February 1, 2013

ARGOS — Hal and Jeanne Sullivan are like most families that own small farms.
They work every day, don’t take vacations and live a modest lifestyle.
So when they lost an estimated $80,000 in cattle, it was almost too much to handle.
“My daughter is at Purdue University,” said Hal. “All her life, that was her dream. All I can say is thank God for scholarships because he almost took her dream away.”
Sullivan said that he’s talking about Joe Miller.
Miller is accused of stealing cattle from Sullivan and the Topeka Sale Barn in LaGrange County.
Miller was caught in LaGrange County, Sullivan said, and he was headed toward a light sentence that would have involved house arrest.
Thursday, the Sullivans were in court with Marshall County Superior Court Judge Robert Bowen for a sentencing hearing.
Sullivan said Bowen also agreed the sentence was too light and threw out a plea agreement.
The matter is due back in court Feb. 28.
The Sullivans gained attention this week after WNDU did a story on the theft of cattle from their farm in Argos.
Sullivan said that businesses he works with rallied to gain media attention for the matter as it looked like Miller may get the light sentence.
Sullivan said Miller’s lawyer is contesting that Miller only stole cattle from the Argos farm once and that most of those cattle were returned.
Not so said Sullivan who has determined that cattle were stolen from his property six times.
That includes last week.
Sullivan said neighbors noticed a trailer going into the area where he keeps his cattle but thought nothing of it.
Sullivan said he was shocked at the brazen nature of the thefts. They took place often in broad daylight.
Along with the loss of cattle, Sullivan has spent upwards of $9,000 in security cameras to protect his livestock.
The Sullivans run their farm with son Charlie and two other workers. With such a small crew and hundreds of cattle to deal with, Sullivan said he can’t do a head count each time.
That’s what thieves bank on he said.
“If you’re dealing with 1,300, 1,400 head of cattle you’re not going to notice a handful of them missing,” said Sullivan.
The farmer has been conservative with his losses he said. Insurance has covered some of the losses but not nearly enough.
Sullivan and his family are seeking full restitution for his losses.
And he believes that this incident doesn’t stop at Miller.
According to Sullivan, multiple sets of shoe prints were found at his barn.
Also, unlike fencing stolen property, cattle farmers and the barns they sell to have close relationships. An outsider would stick out.
Sullivan said that for Miller, and whoever else may be involved, would have to have a working knowledge of cattle.
“They always picked the best cattle,” said Sullivan. “They knew what they were doing.”
“He’s just the low man on the totem pole,” said Sullivan of Miller.
Sullivan encouraged friends and other farmers to show up to the February hearing.
Sullivan said this should serve notice to other farmers.
“This is a warning tale to other farmers,” said Sullivan. “It’s me today. Will it be you tomorrow?”

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