Kittrell busted at DUI checkpoint
A South Jones woman who was being sought for keeping 39 dogs “in deplorable conditions” at her residence was caught and caged in the Jones County Adult Detention Center over the weekend.
Miranda Kittrell, 37, was charged with 39 counts of animal cruelty — all misdemeanors — after she was identified by new Deputy Curt Bassett and arrested at a DUI checkpoint on Sandersville-Sharon Road on Saturday night.
"Great job by JCSD deputes in identifying Miranda Kittrell and taking her into custody," Sheriff Joe Berlin said just after the arrest.
Kittrell made her initial appearance in Jones County Justice Court on Sunday afternoon. She stood before Judge David Lyons in shackles and handcuffs, and when he asked how she pleads to the charges, Kittrell said, “Not guilty.”
Lyons set her bond at $5,000 and set her trial for 9 a.m. on Oct. 1.
“I was,” Kittrell said when a reporter asked if she thought she was helping the dogs that were found Aug. 21 in her mobile home, which was destroyed by fire four days after the Jones County Sheriff’s Department and Southern Pines Animal Shelter of Hattiesburg officials helped rescue the dogs from the property.
“I didn’t burn down my trailer,” she said in response to a question as she was escorted back to jail, glaring at a reporter as she waited on the door to open. She gave similar looks to Lyons while she was in the courtroom.
This is the third time Kittrell has been accused in an animal-cruelty case, Berlin said.
In 2017, as a founding member of the now-defunct Animal Rescue Team, Kittrell faced charges of animal neglect and abuse when JCSD deputies took 40 dogs and nearly 20 horses living in poor conditions at multiple properties. Kittrell was charged with 13 counts of failing to provide sustenance to the animals.
This time, the possible punishment could be tougher because of new enhanced state laws, signed by Gov. Tate Reeves, that took effect July 1. Each act of cruelty or abuse that is committed against more than one animal will count as a separate offense. Previously, no matter how many animals were involved, it was one cruelty charge. Under the new law, Kittrell could face up to six months in jail and a fine of $39,000.
Southern Pines officials wrote that it would likely cost more than $17,000 to care for the animals while trying to get them adopted out to new families.
The animals were discovered when the JCSD executed a search warrant on the property at 10 Ball Drive, which has a Seminary postal address but is in the southern part of Jones County.
The dogs appeared malnourished and had been abandoned, officials on the scene said.
“We found the conditions concerning because of a lack of fresh water and food, and the conditions of the animals themselves indicated they lacked either food and water, shelter, access to veterinary care or a combination of those things,” said Ginny Simms, executive director of Southern Pines. “We found that the animals needed immediate intervention.”
Emergency care for those animals began right there on the property. At least one dog was found dead.
Sources close to the investigation said Kittrell’s children had been kept in the mobile home, too.
On the Tuesday morning following the seizure of the animals, the mobile home was engulfed in flames. The JCSD and firefighters from the Boggy Volunteer Fire Department responded to the blaze. The cause of the fire is under investigation by JCSD arson investigator J.D. Carter.