An Elkridge man was given probation and ordered to perform community service yesterday after pleading guilty to dumping hundreds of dog and cat carcasses in shallow graves in a wooded area near his home last fall.
William Alvin Sparrow, accused of leaving at least 500 pounds of debris in the six graves, accepted a plea agreement before Howard County District Judge Lenore Gelfman for one count of commercial dumping.
The mass grave site on county-owned land south of the 7700 block of Mayfield Ave., off Route 108 was discovered Oct. 7 by surveyors working nearby who followed a putrid odor to the carcasses.
"I just want to get it all behind me," Mr. Sparrow said after the hearing. "I know it was wrong."
Mr. Sparrow, 34, of the 6400 block of Meadowridge Road is a former private contractor who had been hired by area animal hospitals and veterinary clinics to transport the animals to a rendering plant in Baltimore.
The prosecution asserted that Mr. Sparrow began dumping the carcasses last summer when the rendering plant refused to accept any more animal remains from him because he owed the company about $3,000.
"Do you understand why you can't dump animal carcasses?" Judge Gelfman asked Mr. Sparrow during yesterday's hearing. "It's a tremendous health hazard."
"Yes, ma'am," Mr. Sparrow responded.
Judge Gelfman ordered Mr. Sparrow to complete three months of probation, during which time he must perform 50 hours of environmentally related community service.
He also must pay $50 in fines and $505 in restitution to Howard County to cover the cost of cleaning up the grave sites.
Mr. Sparrow could have been sentenced up to five years in
prison and ordered to pay up to $25,000 in fines for his conviction on the commercial dumping charge.
People who live and work near the site said they had noticed an odd smell for several weeks but did not do anything about it.
After the graves were discovered, a police detective and two county animal control officers went through an open pit and pulled out the bodies of animals to learn their origin.
Assistant State's Attorney Thomas Rafter said authorities believed the carcasses came from either an animal clinic or hospital because most of the animals were wrapped in black plastic bags.
Meanwhile, a confidential informant gave police Mr. Sparrow's address, reporting that he was the one responsible for dumping the carcasses, Mr. Rafter said.
A detective went to Mr. Sparrow, who admitted to the dumping because the rendering plant would no longer accept his deliveries, Mr. Rafter said.
Mr. Sparrow explained that he didn't know what to do with the animal remains, so he took a shovel from his home, went to the nearby woods and dug the graves to deposit the animals, the prosecutor said.
The defendant, who took about 10,000 pounds of animal remains to the rendering plant a month, stopped making deliveries there in June, Mr. Rafter said.
The county covered the shallow graves with lime and soil, burying the carcasses at the site.