Hunter Nelson Still Not Cooperating Over Missing Dogs
JONESBORO, Ark. – The missing dog Ollie, first covered in January, has still not been found but his owner, Rachel Tyrer, is more persistent than ever to find answers as her civil action against the apparently deceitful dog trainer rolls on.
Attorney Jared Woodard of Stanley | Woodard Law Firm spoke to NEA Report on Friday, June 21. He represents Tyrer in her civil lawsuit against Hunter Nelson, Abbie Nelson, and 4-Legged Retrievers. At last check Woodard had hoped Nelson would be compelled to finally cooperate with the involvement of lawyers but that hasn’t happened.
On May 8, Woodard sent to discovery to Nelson’s lawyer, Marty Lilly, of Jonesboro. They responded on May 31 with responses to the interrogatory and quest for production, also called ‘discovery.’
“They responded with minimal information, almost evasive, saying we don’t have to respond,” Woodard said.
One of the many questions in the discovery pertained to what type of training Nelson had to qualify himself to train retrievers. Despite this appearing to be a relevant question in a civil case about dogs dying in the care of a dog trainer, Nelson’s attorney objected to answering virtually everything.
So Woodard sent them a letter asking Nelson to amend and provide full responses. They were given until June 28 to supplement their responses – one week from the date of this article’s publication.
“We weren’t surprised because that’s just kind of how [Nelson] is,” Woodard said.
By next Friday, if Woodard doesn’t have adequate responses, he plans to file a motion to compel. That will ask the court to set a hearing if Nelson’s attorney doesn’t provide some answers. Nelson could end up paying attorney fees for filing that motion and the hearing, on top of the penalties he already faces from a civil trial.
The question couldn’t be clearly answered as to if the delays were being caused by Nelson, his legal counsel, or a combination thereof. If Nelson is failing to cooperate, his lawyer might decide to withdraw from being counsel. But Woodard said he would need to document every attempt to contact the client in that case, since the judge will want to know why that side has been unresponsive.
As for the information requested in discovery, Woodard said the requests must be responded to and met unless rare circumstances arise.
“They can’t just say you don’t need that,” Woodard said. “You have to provide it unless it’s frivolous information, attorney client privilege, protected by work product, or is so far out there (like dinner from two years ago) that it could be challenged.”
Other Dog Owners
Although another case in Mississippi County, Gene Adams v Nelson and group, has had a trial date set, Woodard said he has not requested such a date because he feels like it will inevitably be delayed until cooperation is forced, anyway. Woodard said he followed the case with attorney Christopher Cheadle represnting Adams and they have encountered similar problems with evasiveness. Woodard said it was going to take time and he anticipated that but he has a determined strategy of where to move forward.
“I have requested depositions with Hunter and Abbie,” Woodard said.
If he gets his request, both Nelson and his wife Abbie, also named in the lawsuit, would be questioned by Woodard. It would be the best chance yet to find answers about why so many dogs keep showing up dead under their care.
“This isn’t going away, which is what they all hoped – that we would stick our heads in the sand and go the other way,” Woodard said.
Woodard said he is planning to meet with another male client who lost a dog to Nelson, soon. The dog, “Moose,” has been previously reported as one of the many lost by Nelson. The excuse for Moose’s disappearance was almost identical to what was told to Tyrer – a fatal snakebite. His owner is scheduled to assist Tyrer in her case, possibly as a witness if trial is reached.
Tyrer’s persistent attorney hopes to find more witnesses, too. It doesn’t have to be someone who lost a dog to Nelson. Woodard said he would like to reach people who may simply have had conversations with him at the location of the dog kennels or who came into some brief contact that could yield a new perspective on what was happening.
“We’re still moving forward and talking to people,” Woodard said. “And anybody that has any information – I want to talk to them in person, if not over the phone. Especially if they’ve been out there.”
The next step will be to see if the June 28 deadline is met for discovery. If it is not, the court will determine what potential penalties Nelson could face from lack of cooperation on top of the mounting costs that he is likely to incur from several trials and the already-certain costs of legal representation in each case.