Sentenced for Aggravated Animal Cruelty

Today Robert David Starkweather, 52, of Immokalee, was sentenced for Aggravated Animal
Cruelty. He was found guilty on January 31, 2020 of 12 felony counts of Aggravated Animal
Cruelty following a four-day trial in Hendry County.

This morning the defendant’s motion for a new trial, motion for arrest of judgement, and motion
for judgement of acquittal were all denied by the Honorable Judge James Sloan. The State
Attorney’s Office asked for a sentence of 45 months in prison followed by 5 years of probation
as well as adjudication of guilt on each count. The State Attorney’s Office also asked for the
sentence to include a condition of probation that Starkweather not be allowed to possess or care
for cattle or other animals, plus court costs, and restitution.

The Honorable Judge Sloan adjudicated Starkweather guilty on two of the counts and withheld
adjudication on the remaining counts. He was sentenced to 5 years of probation and 90 days in
jail as a condition of probation. The defendant must also do 100 hours of community service, pay
court costs, and restitution. Starkweather must report all fields where he has cattle so that
agriculture units can check the pastures quarterly to report any issues to probation.

The evidence in the case showed that during late 2017 and early 2018, the defendant owned 144
cows and calves that he had in a pasture off Ft. Denaud Road in LaBelle. In March 2018, the
Hendry County Sheriff’s Office Agricultural Crimes Unit responded to the pasture after getting a
report about a downed cow. Deputies found 13 dead cows and 131 emaciated cows and calves at
the scene.

The evidence presented at trial showed the defendant failed to provide adequate food, water, and
medication to the animals. Further, he ignored signs, over a four-month period, showing the
cows were in distress and suffering from malnutrition. The animals were taken by the Hendry
County Sheriff’s Office from the location.

The State Attorney’s Office filed a total of 131 counts involving animal cruelty and animal
abuse. There was one charge for each living animal. There were also 13 counts filed for
Improper Disposal of a Dead Animal. The jury was presented photographs of every animal found
on the property. They deliberated for more than four hours before returning the guilty verdict for
the 12 felony counts of Aggravated Animal Cruelty.

Assistant State Attorney Kimberlee Mitton prosecuted the case.

Samantha Syoen
Communications Director
State Attorney’s Office