THUMBS DOWN: A heartbreaking and distraceful chapter closed Tuesday when the second of two people who played roles in the deaths of 27 dogs was sentenced. Laura Filler was sentenced to 33 years, with all but seven years and seven days suspended for 11 counts of aggravated animal cruelty. The notorious Black Rock dogs case began in April 2019, when Filler and her husband John J. Roberts, 50, were arrested as 27 dogs were found dead and another 27 were found in deplorable conditions at a property they rented on Black Rock Road in Hampstead. They had been operating an unlicensed breeding operation, according to the Office of the State’s Attorney for Carroll County. At the time, Sheriff Jim DeWees was quoted as saying, “This was one of the most disturbing scenes that many of the first responders have ever seen.” Judge Fred S. Hecker sentenced Filler, who will get credit for 480 days served. Hecker described he property as a “chamber of horrors” after viewing video taken on April 8 2019 in court Tuesday that showed sludge smeared on the walls from floor to ceiling, moldy dog food littered throughout the house and decaying remains in a bathtub. The prosecutor for the case, Melissa Hockensmith, told the court: “I think that these dogs deserve justice.” They received it. Now let’s hope we never again see anything like this in our community.
THUMBS UP: It appears that kids of all ages and abilities in Mount Airy will soon have an all-inclusive playground at Watkins Park at their disposal, and that the park will help the community remember a local mother who advocated for one before she was killed this past spring. The idea to build an all-inclusive playground came about when town resident Heather Zujkowski, mother of three, petitioned the town to add a swing at Watkins Park for her son, who is disabled, after it was discovered that there was no equipment in any of the town’s playgrounds compliant with the American with Disabilities Act. Zujkowski was subsequently killed, along with 18-year-old Noah Homayouni, by Zujkowski’s estranged husband in a murder-suicide in April. After the swing was installed at Watkins Park, Zujkowski advocated for an all-inclusive playground to be built at the park as well. This led town officials to recognize the need for a universally designed and ADA-compliant playground in Mount Airy. The playground project, which is currently in its first phase, will be located on the grounds of the old skate park, which was demolished in 2018. Everyone will be able to enjoy it, Councilwoman Pamela Reed told us. “Whether you’re 0 or 99, you will have access to this playground,” she said. Installation is expected in the spring of 2021.
THUMBS UP: The 123rd annual Carroll County 4-H & FFA Fair begins today and runs through Aug. 8. It’s always one of our favorite events, known for a concert, a demolition derby, a rodeo, a cake auction and numerous other shows and promotions as well as good food that brings thousands to the Carroll County Agriculture Center each year. None of those will happen this year, of course, as crowds everywhere have been significantly restricted in response to the coronavirus pandemic. In the case of the fair, that means the public isn’t allowed in. A typical fair draws 50,000 people per week to the Ag Center grounds, said Jim Weishaar, chair of the fair board. Still, while the only spectators will be family of participating kids, at least the show will go on and their hard work and talents will be showcased. The livestock sale, set for Friday, Aug. 7 at 5:30 p.m., will be the only part of the fair that’s open to the public, in a modified way. Some buyers will be able to preregister to attend in person and others can do so virtually. Let’s hope the fair gets back to normal next year. In the meantime, for those who would still like to support the fair, donations can be made by the fair staff at email@example.com or by calling 410-848-3247.