2-state cockfighting ring results in 3 arrests

Three Columbus residents are accused of engaging in and promoting animal fighting contests after Indiana Gaming Commission investigators discovered cockfighting activity in Brown County, as well as related activities in Kentucky.

The three people arrested Wednesday morning included a married couple, Mark O. Herrin, 57, and Darina S. Herrin, 57, both of 9113 Grandview Road, Columbus; and Mark O. Herrin’s brother, Randall L. Herrin, 54, of 1110 Jonesville Road, Columbus, gaming commission investigators said.

Each are accused in Brown County Circuit Court of two Level 6 felony charges, promoting an animal fighting contest and purchasing an animal for use in an animal fighting contest.

All three were booked into the Brown County Jail between 7 and 8 a.m. Wednesday, and each had posted $2,500 bond before their 9 a.m. Wednesday release, a jailer said.

Brown County activity

Although the married couple has a Columbus address, their Grandview Road home is actually located in Brown County, said Jennifer Reske, Indiana Gaming Commission deputy director.

When the three were arrested Wednesday morning, investigators recovered about 100 birds from the couple’s Brown County property, Reske said.

Probable-cause affidavits filed to support the charges state most of the cockfighting activities were taking place in a large barn on a 15-acre farm the Herrin couple owns in west central Kentucky, near Morgantown, about 24 miles northwest of Bowling Green.

The investigation into the Herrins and the Indiana cockfighting activity began about six months ago with a tip, Reske said.

While checking out that tip Oct. 11, Indiana Gaming Control officer Rudy Perez found a sheet of paper known as a Derby Sheet, which is used to promote cockfighting, the probable-cause affidavit states.

After Perez showed the paper to an expert with the American Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, he learned a telephone number on the Derby Sheet was likely that of a high-level ranking individual in the cockfighting organization, the affidavit stated.

The number was traced to Darina Herrin, Perez stated in the affidavit.

On Dec. 11, an Indiana Department of Natural Resources officer confirmed to Perez that he could hear several dozen roosters and hens at the Grandview Road property while he had the couple’s home under surveillance, according to the affidavit.

Five days later, Perez saw several dozen wooden-type poultry housing structures on the Grandview Road property that are often associated with cockfighting, the affidavit stated.

He also saw at least three roosters with no comb or wattles, which are often removed from birds being groomed for cockfights, the affidavit stated.

While investigators did not actually see cockfighting take place on the couple’s property, Perez stated he was told by an ASPCA expert that all evidence indicates that type of activity was taking place in a detached garage on the property as an effort to weed out weaker birds.

It was during surveillance that took place in January that Randall Herrin’s involvement was discovered, the affidavit stated. Darina Herrin was seen the following month taking part in the cockfighting activity, Perez wrote.

On Jan. 24, the brothers were seen bringing two roosters together on the Brown County property in what appeared to be an effort to incite them into aggression, Perez wrote. A few hours later, one of the brothers was observed stomping on a bird’s head three times, the affidavit stated.

The brothers were seen multiple times moving the birds to different pens on the Grandview Road property in ways that are more consistent with cockfighting than normal poultry operations, Perez wrote in the affidavit.

Kentucky activity

After Kentucky authorities received a tip of cockfighting at the Herrins’ farm near Morgantown, two undercover officers were able to get inside the couple’s barn on March 3, the affidavit stated.

The officers reported seeing cockfighting in four different arenas being supervised by the Herrin brothers, as well as Darina Herrin running a concession stand, the affidavit stated.

Between 75 and 85 cockfights were held in the Kentucky barn that day, with attendance estimated at up to 200 people, Perez wrote. Each person there was required to pay a $20 admission fee, he said in the probable-cause affidavit.

When the Herrins returned to south central Indiana, they remained under surveillance by law enforcement, the affidavit states. But Perez said that after he compared evidence with Kentucky authorities on March 19, investigators in both states felt they had sufficient proof to file charges in Indiana.

The affidavit lists other people who are believed to have been part of the cockfighting operation. Reske said some evidence is not being made public at this time, adding more arrests are likely in the ongoing investigation.

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.