It seems ridiculous that a Connersville police officer and his wife could face serious jail time for trying to save the life a young deer, but that’s exactly what’s happening to Jeff and Jennifer Counceller.
Thanks to social media — particularly Facebook and Twitter — the story of the Councellers’ plight involving “Dani” is making the rounds. To say the couple is receiving an outpouring of public support would be a serious understatement.
Peppered with comments such as “embarrassing,” “preposterous” and “outraged,” hundreds of people — possibly more — have expressed their displeasure and dissatisfaction about the situation and upcoming trial. A pretrial hearing is set for 9 a.m. on Feb. 20 at the Union County Courthouse, 26 W. Union St. in Liberty.
A Facebook ’cause / petition’ that was created — ‘Drop Charges Against Connersville Police Officer’ — had nearly 2,600 likes by 11 p.m. on Saturday.
Also, thanks to John Waudby via www.change.org, individuals have the opportunity to sign a petition on Facebook that will be electronically delivered to special prosecutor Brian Clark, who has been assigned to the case.
Fayette County Prosecutor Ken Faw is not involved with the case in any way, according to officials.
Click the following link to visit the site: “Petitioning Prosecuting Attorneys Council … Brian A Clark: Drop Charges against Connersville Police Officer and his wife.”
Eric Angeles is one of many Connersville residents who has expressed strong support for the Councellers. “Jeff and Jennifer Counceller … are the kind of people known for their kindness and willingness to help anyone in time of need,” Angeles wrote on Facebook. “… they are what I think of when someone uses the saying, “pillars of the community.”
Below is the WTHR Channel 13 video and story about the Councellers.
13 WTHR Indianapolis
CONNERSVILLE – A central Indiana couple faces criminal charges tonight for trying to save an injured deer.
“I’ve caught a guy that’s killed three people,” explained Connersville police officer Jeff Counceller.
Counceller has spent his 14 year career as a police officer, locking up the bad guys.
“We’ve never had any criminal convictions. We’re good people,” added his wife Jennifer.
The Councellers though, have found themselves on the other side of the law recently. The couple may face 60 days behind bars.
The reason comes down to a little deer Jeff rescued two years ago, after he found it injured on a porch during a police call.
“I was gonna put her back in the woods, but I seen the injuries and I knew they were life threatening so I called Jennifer,” recalled Jeff.
Jennifer, a nurse, thought she could help.
“I couldn’t let her just die there,” said Jennifer.
“We called her little orphan Dani. She’s definitely changed our lives,” she added.
The couple nursed Dani back to health, even bottle feeding her.
“I had to set my alarm every two hours. We just kind of took turns. Every two hours we had to feed her and irrigate her wounds and spray more medicine on it,” explained Jennifer.
“I had her standing up on the second day that I got her back and she was you know, walking and I knew she was making improvements,” said Jennifer.
Not enough though, said the Councellers to just release the fawn back into the wild quickly.
“She was just too small to survive,” Jennifer explained.
At one point, the Councellers said they called several deer habitats across the state to see if one of them could take Dani. The couple said they were told that they were too full at that point.
So the Councellers built a pen for Dani in their backyard, right near the woods, until the deer could grow bigger and stronger.
“She would run around. She would play. We would feed her crack cord and deer chow and other things. Again, we knew someday that we needed to turn her loose,” explained Jeff.
“It was never a secret that we had the deer. Everybody knew we had the deer. We never kept it a secret. We talked about it openly,” said Jennifer.
Last summer, the Councellers said they were getting ready to let Dani go, but were waiting for the corn crops to mature so she would have something to eat when they released her.
“We had already started decreasing our contact with her, trying to kind of dehumanize her and you know, get her used to us not being there,” explained Jennifer.
“We were about six weeks away from turning her loose,” added Jeff.
Last July though, the Councellers said they got a visit from an officer with the Department of Natural Resources.
“He asked me if we still had the deer and I told him I did,” recalled Jennifer.
“He told me that I could maybe call Indianapolis and maybe get a rescue permit until you know, we could get her released back into the wild. So that’s what I tried to do,” Jennifer continued.
Jennifer said when she called the DNR’s state office, she was turned down.
“She basically just told me that I was in illegal possession of the deer and that they would not give me a rescue permit,” recalled Jennifer.
“It just kind of all went downhill from there,” she continued.
According to the Councellers, DNR officers told them they would have to put Dani down because she had been around humans too long. .
“She was a threat to society is what they said,” recalled Jeff.
“Their original plan was to shoot her with a rifle,” said Jennifer.
“Then they found a vet that was going to euthanize her and we had to pay the fee and they was going to let us bury her on our property,” she continued.
The day officers were supposed to come and euthanize Dani though, someone left the gate to her pen open and Dani escaped.
The Councellers said they did not open the pen that day, but believe someone who knew what was going to happen to Dani, did.
The affidavit of probable cause charge the couple with harboring a wild animal said that DNR officers questioned Jennifer’s father about Dani getting loose. He was never charged though.
The Counsellers can’t be sure what had become of Dani. They think she might be one of the many deer who come around their property from time to time.
“If I’m out there and the others run quick, there’s one that won’t,” explained Jennifer.
“In my heart, I know it’s her. But I’m happy that it’s her and I’m happy she’s with the other deer and that’s getting to live her life,” she added.
While Dani, the deer may be free, a jury must decide if the Councellers share the same fate.
“I’d rather go to trial. I feel like I’m gonna stand up for what I know is right,” said Jennifer.
“It’s a complete waste of taxpayer’s money. What they should have done is write us a ticket,” added Jeff.
A special prosecutor from Decatur County has been called in to prosecute the case, along with a special judge from Union County.
The Councellers said they believe that’s to avoid a conflict of interest because Jeff is a Connersville police officer and Jennifer works part time as a jail nurse in Fayette County.
“There’s less paperwork on felonies that what they’ve done in this process,” said Jeff.
“There was no criminal intent here. We didn’t go out and poach a deer. We didn’t kill a deer without a tag. We didn’t, you know, go out and steal her from the woods and plan on keeping her as a pet,” added Jennifer.
“She deserved a chance to live,” said Jeff about Dani.
The Councellers said they just wanted to give the deer a fighting chance. They never counted on Dani’s fighting chance, leading to a legal fight for them.