Hampstead man pleads guilty in Black Rock dogs case, receives maximum sentence for aggravated animal cruelty

John J. Roberts
John J. Roberts (Carroll County Sheriff's)

The second person indicted on 109 counts after 27 dogs were found dead and 27 others were found in squalor at a Hampstead property in April has been given the maximum sentence for aggravated animal cruelty after he also pleaded guilty.

John J. Roberts, 49, formerly of the 4300 block of Black Rock Road, pleaded guilty Wednesday to 11 counts of aggravated animal cruelty before Carroll County Circuit Court Judge Maria L. Oesterreiche, according to a news release from the Carroll County State’s Attorney’s Office. The judge sentenced Roberts to 33 years in prison but suspending all but 11 years and 11 days. The maximum sentence for each of the 11 counts of aggravated animal cruelty is three years, according to the release.


The other person charged in the case, Laura S. Filler, 56, pleaded guilty Oct. 7 to 11 counts of aggravated animal cruelty but is not scheduled to be sentenced until Jan. 17, according to online court records. She is being held until her sentencing.

Roberts must pay $10,965 as restitution to the Carroll County Humane Society for its care of the 27 dogs that survived, and he owes $91,400 to The Dennis & Sharon Chiodi Living Trust, the owner of the property where Roberts previously resided, for damage to the home, according to the Carroll County State’s Attorney’s Office.

When Roberts is released he will be supervised by the Department of Parole and Probation for five years, during which time he will be prohibited from owning or possessing animals or having animals in his custody or control, and animal control officials may visit his home, the office said in the release. He also will be required to undergo a mental health evaluation and follow any treatment recommendations.

Before Wednesday’s sentencing, a jury trial for Roberts had been scheduled to begin Nov. 18.

Roberts and Filler were arrested after animal control officers found 38 dogs, 11 of which were dead, in squalid conditions at the Black Rock Road property April 5. Days later, an additional 16 dogs were found dead there.

“This was one of the most disturbing scenes that many of the first responders have ever seen," Sheriff Jim DeWees said of the Black Rock Road property in April.

“As officers approached the home, they smelled an overwhelming odor of decomposition, heard barking and saw dogs inside jumping up against filthy windows,” the Carroll County State’s Attorney’s Office said in Wednesday’s release.

Officers tried to contact someone in the home and were unsuccessful, finding the door was locked from the outside.

“Upon opening the door to the home, officers were overwhelmed with the odors of ammonia, decomposition and fecal matter, and were immediately met by numerous dogs,” the release reads. “There was no water or palatable food available for the dogs found on the first floor of the home. Every surface of the home accessed by the dogs was covered in a sludge-like matter, the main floor containing 2-4 inches of sludge, with no clean dry place for any of the dogs to sit or lay down.”

Filler and Roberts had been renting the home since 2008 and were operating an “unlicensed breeding operation” that Filler referred to as “Black Rock Dalmatians” and “Black Rock Puppies” on social media, according to the release.

The case was investigated by Animal Control Officer Edward Smith, along with the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office. Senior Assistant State’s Attorney Melissa Hockensmith prosecuted the case, the release states.

The attorney listed for Roberts in court records, William Welch III, did not return a call for comment Wednesday.