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Couple that didn’t show for court faced nearly 50 years

By TODD RICHMOND
Associated Press

Firefighters respond to a house fire in Pleasant Prairie, Wis., Thursday, March 19, 2015. The bodies of two people have been recovered from a burned-out house on a southeastern Wisconsin farm where a couple was accused of animal neglect. (AP Photo/The Kenosha News, Brian Passino)

Firefighters respond to a house fire in Pleasant Prairie on Thursday. The bodies of two people were recovered from a burned-out house on a southeastern Wisconsin farm where a couple was accused of animal neglect. (AP Photo/The Kenosha News, Brian Passino)

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A southeastern Wisconsin couple that didn’t show up for their animal cruelty trial after two bodies were discovered on their property each faced nearly 50 years behind bars.

Authorities declined Friday to speculate as to whether the bodies found in the ruins of David and Paula White’s burned farmhouse in Pleasant Prairie were the couple’s. One of the couple’s attorneys said he filed motions Friday to dismiss three other cases involving the Whites on the presumption that the couple is dead.

With autopsies pending Friday in Milwaukee, village of Pleasant Prairie Police Chief David Smetana said prosecutors had issued warrants for the couple based on their failure to appear in court.

“We don’t have absolute, concrete proof that the two bodies in there are David and Paula White,” he said. “We’re not going to jump to conclusions on who the people are.”

Prosecutors in Kenosha County charged each of the Whites with 17 counts of mistreating animals and improperly sheltering them over the last two years after authorities discovered nearly 70 animal carcasses buried on their Pleasant Prairie farm. They also found five dead horses in their stalls and nearly two dozen other malnourished horses.

The Whites, who are both in their 60s, each faced up to 47 years and six months in prison and jail if convicted on all counts. A jury trial began last week. Online court records show both of them were in court every day.

The jury got the case late Wednesday but deliberated for only about half-an-hour before calling it quits for the day. Early Thursday morning a fire broke out at the Whites’ farmhouse, and authorities discovered the bodies in the ruins.

The Whites failed to appear in court later that morning as attorneys for the two sides addressed a question from the jury. They also didn’t show up in court Thursday afternoon when the jury handed down its verdicts. They were convicted in absentia of 11 felonies and two misdemeanors, exposing each of them to up 38-½ years in prison and 1-½ years in jail.

David White’s attorney, Joe Easton, didn’t immediately return a voicemail message on Friday.

Terry Rose is an attorney representing Paula White in two other cases in which she’s accused of shooting protected birds and animals. He’s also representing the couple in a lawsuit that the village of Pleasant Prairie filed against them seeking compensation for caring for the animals authorities removed from the farm.

He told The Associated Press on Friday that he hadn’t heard from Paula White in at least a month and doesn’t know if she’s alive. But he said he filed motions to dismiss the outstanding charges against her and the compensation case because the couple is most likely dead.

“I assume they were in that fire,” he said. “I don’t want to react until I know for a fact they’re deceased. (But) who else would (the bodies) be? I am filing my motions to dismiss based on the fact that if they were alive, they would have contacted me after all the publicity.”

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