Forrest enters Alford plea, gets 120-day shock prison sentence in case where animals died and belongings were taken
Gainesville resident Amanda Forrest, 40, is ordered to report to the Ozark County Sheriff’s Department Dec. 13 to be transported to the Missouri Department of Corrections, where she is to complete a 120-day shock prison sentence. Forrest will also have a five-year back-up sentence available for the court to impose or execute if she does not successfully complete probation without violations. She is also ordered to spend 10 days in the county jail and pay $2,000 in restitution.
On Nov. 7, Forrest pleaded guilty by Alford plea to financial exploitation of an elderly or disabled person before Circuit Judge Craig Carter. An Alford guilty plea, also known as a “best interest plea,” means that Forrest asserts her innocence but believes the prosecution has enough evidence that a jury would convict her of the charge. Defendants who plead guilty by Alford plea can be sentenced as if they had submitted a straight guilty plea.
Forrest also submitted a straight guilty plea to animal abuse, a class A misdemeanor.
The charges were filed in connection with allegations that Forrest made a “false promise” in December 2017 to care for the animals and property belonging to an 80-year-old man who was reportedly in an incapacitated state in a long-term care facility.
Multiple cats dead, two dogs near death from lack of food, water
The probable cause statement in the case, prepared by Ozark County Sheriff’s Deputy Cpl. Curtis Dobbs, says that on April 20, Dobbs responded to a report of people loading items into a truck at a residence on County Road 511.The person who reported the incident to deputies said a 1999 Buick Regal and a 1995 Ford Explorer were missing from the property.
Dobbs learned that the owner of the residence had been hospitalized in Mountain Home, Arkansas, from January to March and then was transferred to a long-term care facility in Willow Springs, where the social services director told Dobbs the resident had been “in an incapacitated state” since his arrival there, and a Guardian Ad Litem had been appointed for him in April.
When Dobbs arrived at the man’s residence on April 20, he saw tire tracks at the back of the house “and drag marks where someone had recently drug a heavy object and loaded it into a vehicle,” he wrote in the probable cause statement. He also saw that a window had been broken out on the side of the home.
While Dobbs was at the house, Forrest and two other people arrived. The two passengers in the truck told Dobbs that Forrest had “promised them money in exchange for helping her load and haul items to another location where a person was waiting to purchase them.” Both passengers reportedly told the officer that Forrest told them she had permission to be at the residence.
Forrest admitted to Dobbs that she had taken items from the home but said she had the owner’s permission in order to pay for feeding the cats and dogs, according to the statement.
On March 24, an individual had discovered several animals in the residence that were dead or near-death; the person reported the situation to the sheriff’s office, the statement says. An Ozark County Sheriff’s Deputy responded and found between six and nine dead cats inside the home and two dogs that were near death.
The individual who reported the animals and other witnesses told Dobbs that Forrest “may have had permission ... to feed the animals but not to sell any of the items” belonging to the property owner.
Dobbs wrote in the report that he found no evidence indicating any money received from the sale of the items ever benefitted the owner or was used to feed his animals.
“The animals left in her care were abandoned and locked in the home where most died from lack of food and water,” he wrote.
Unpaid bills, missing vehicles
When asked about the two missing vehicles, Forrest told Dobbs she had wrecked the Explorer and sold it to someone in Arkansas for $200.
Dobbs showed Forrest photos of the household items and appliances reported as missing, “which appeared to be on her Facebook page. ... Ms. Forrest was attempting to sell these and other items for cash on Facebook sites such as Mountain Home Online Yard Sale,” Dobbs wrote.
Forrest said she sold the items in order to pay the elderly resident’s bill at Gainesville Veterinary Clinic. Dobbs contacted the clinic staff, who reportedly told him the resident did have an outstanding balance but that a payment had not been received since the charges were accrued in December.
On April 23, Dobbs contacted a person in Mountain Home who had posted a Facebook advertisement offering cash for old cars. The man told Dobbs that Forrest had contacted him, and he drove to the victim’s Ozark County residence and purchased the two vehicles from Forrest, paying $200 for each vehicle. The actual value of the vehicles was in excess of $1,000 each, Dobbs wrote. The man said he had already crushed the Buick, but he still had the Explorer.
In the charging document, allegations include “promising performance that the defendant did not intend to perform or knew would not be performed and thereby knowingly obtained control of two motor vehicles, household appliances and furniture ... with the intent to permanently deprive Confidential Victim of the use of the property.”