A general sessions judge criticized a suspended metro animal sciences teacher for the condition of animals in her care and summoned the principal of her school to appear in court.

Judge Melissa Blackburn found probable cause Friday to bound a charge of animal cruelty over to a grand jury in the case against Jessie Lumpkins.

News4 Investigates exposed how a series of metro animal care and control inspections in 2019 found animals without water and food, and questions surrounding the deaths of emus, including one that was disposed in the school’s dumpster.

“(Lumpkins) let all these animals die, be neglected, and it all happened on her watch,” said Elaine Cuthbertson, Davidson County assistant district attorney.

Jeff Norman, who donated his emu, Charlie, to Lumpkins for her program, said he was healthy over the summer, and was stunned to hear he had died by the end of the year.

“Bitter disappointment, anger, a good deal of sorrow,” Norman testified.

But Bernie McEvoy, Lumpkins’ attorney, argued that the school was slow in providing Lumpkins’ requests for new devices to provide constant water and additional food for the animals.

McEvoy also questioned the length of time inspectors with metro care and control took during some of the visits to the farm.

“Twelve minutes walking down the aisle looking at cages on both sides,” McEvoy said.

“This was her class. This was her responsibility,” Blackburn said when announcing her decision to bound over the case to the grand jury.

But Blackburn also took the district to task, including McGavock High School principal Robbin Wall.

“But if metro is ultimately not providing the funding (for food and supplies) it's on their head, too,” Blackburn said. “But if we have to get the principal in here to get his attention next, let's get him in here.”

In a statement to News4 Investigates, metro school’s spokesman Sean Braistead wrote, “Metro Schools will gladly participate in any investigation into the care of animals at McGavock High School. Our records indicate purchase orders being processed and filled to provide food for the animals in the care of Ms. Lumpkins. We are not aware of any funding issues for the program that would have prevented the purchase of the necessary supplies if requested by Ms. Lumpkins. If additional evidence or information comes to light indicating other parties were involved or responsible for this situation, we’ll investigate and take the appropriate actions.”

Braisted did provide purchase orders of supplies bought for the McGavock farm in 2019, and some so show requests for devices for constant watering for chickens were requested and delivered within a month’s time.


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Chief Investigative Reporter

Jeremy Finley is the chief investigator for News4 Investigates. His reporting has resulted in criminal convictions, legislative hearings before the U.S. Congress, and the payout of more than a million dollars to scam victims.

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