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Prison sentence upheld for Exeter man who let 220 cattle and 1 horse die

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The Nebraska Court of Appeals on Tuesday upheld the prison sentence of an Exeter feedlot owner who let more than 220 cattle and one horse die.

Aaron Ogren, 32, was found guilty of seven felonies in connection with the neglect and abuse of the animals entrusted to his care, as well as selling cattle he did not own.

During an April 2020 visit to Ogren’s feedlot, Fillmore County sheriff’s deputies found dozens of cattle in various stages of decomposition and mired in mud. The cattle and horse were deemed to have died from a combination of malnutrition, disease and exposure.

Fillmore County District Judge Vicky Johnson, calling the case as “egregious” as a couple of murder cases she has handled, sentenced Ogren to serve 15 to 20 years in prison for the most serious felony, theft by unlawful taking. That sentence was ordered to be served at the same time as shorter prison sentences for the other felonies.

“There is no excuse for (Ogren)’s actions,” said Johnson, who was the presiding judge at the murder trials of Aubrey Trail and Bailey Boswell. Trail and Boswell were convicted in the 2017 slaying and dismemberment of Lincoln store clerk Sydney Loofe. “This is a matter of astonishment that any person would let this sort of thing continue time after time after time,” the judge said.

Johnson noted that some of Ogren’s victims in the theft case had to sell real estate or dip into inheritance to settle debts caused by the thefts.

Ogren appealed, saying the sentence was excessive. The judge, he argued, weighed the “seriousness of the offense too heavily” and didn’t consider that he was deemed a low risk to reoffend and had a minimal criminal history.

But the three-judge appeals court sided with Judge Johnson, saying that the sentence was within the statutory guidelines for such felonies and that Ogren had engaged in similar, neglectful treatment of cattle for several years.

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