HOLBROOK, Idaho —The triple homicide that left two children without parents near the Utah-Idaho border last week also left local authorities dealing with 70 pitbulls found at the site of the killings.
Investigators said the majority of the dogs were being raised for sale and trained as fighting dogs about 20 miles west of Malad; a dog-fighting ring and treadmills were also discovered at the site.
No arrests have been made in connection with the homicides, but investigators are following leads associated with marijuana and the dog-fighting operation discovered at the site.
"We believe that they knew who the killer was," Oneida County Sheriff Jeff Semrad told the Associated Press on Sunday. "There’s no evidence there was a robbery."
The bodies of 61-year-old Brent L. Christensen, 32-year-old Trent Jon Christensen and 27-year-old Yavette Chivon Carter were discovered Friday outside Holbrook, a town of about 400 people just north of the Idaho-Utah state line.
Semrad said cash and 38 marijuana plants valued at $95,000 were in the house. Semrad told the Associated Press that 64 pit bulls at the property were used for fighting, and that some were being boarded by Brent Christensen for those in Northern Utah and Idaho.
"One of the problems we’re having is those people don’t want to come and get their dogs because of what was going on," Semrad said. "We talked to a couple people but no one wants to admit that’s what was going on."
Raising dogs for fighting is fairly uncommon in Utah, and not nearly as prevalent as other areas in the U.S., said Kiera Packer, pit crew coordinator for Salt Lake County Animal Services, a program within animal services that addresses the escalating numbers of pitbulls in Utah.
“We don’t really see this too much in our community,” Packer said. “The last case that we saw a very large dog fighting ring was in 2009.”
Though Salt Lake County Animal Services is not able to take the dogs, Packer said they will be looking for larger organizations to rehabilitate them.
“Each dog is going to have something that they’re going to have to work through, because of the horrific things that they’ve been taught to do,” Packer said. “But these dogs have an amazing resilience.”
Most of these dogs will probably be adoptable with time, Temma Martin, a public relations specialist for Best Friends Animals Society, a national, Utah-based organization with the aim of no homeless pets.
The organization has contacted authorities to offer their help.
"We took 22 of what were considered to be the hardest cases from the Michael Vick case," Martin said. "Several of those dogs have since been adopted into homes."
Law enforcement officials are working with the Idaho Humane Society to remove, place and rehabilitate the dogs.
Contributing: Rachel Lowry