Two men indicted earlier this year as part of the largest dogfighting bust in U.S. history are missing on the eve of their trial, which is scheduled to begin later this week.Judious Kizeart
and Gary Payne
were part of a group of seven men charged with "conspiracy to commit unlawful activities of dog fighting" in a March 18 indictment.
But while five of their co-defendants have since pleaded guilty
to the charge, authorities have not been able to locate Payne and Cash.
In a court document dated September 17, 2010 -- the same day the other men pleaded guilty -- District Court Judge Michael Reagan
wrote that the "whereabouts of Kizeart and Payne are unknown and their presence for trial cannot be obtained by due diligence."
In an interview earlier this month, Randy Massey
, spokesman for the southern Illinois U.S. Attorney's Office, confirmed that Kizeart and Payne are indeed AWOL.
"They have not been taken into custody and have not appeared before the court," Massey says. "Warrants will remain issued, and they will be found eventually, and when the warrants are executed they'll be brought before the court."
Court records indicate that arrest warrants for the pair were originally issued on April 7, 2010 after they failed to appear at an April 5 court date.
Massey declined to comment on additional charges the men might face if they skip their next court date, which is scheduled for this Friday, October 29.
Kizeart and Payne are just two of 107 suspects targeted in a joint investigation by the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the USDA, FBI and Humane Society of Missouri that began in early 2008 and ended in July 2009 when authorities arrested 26 people (22 of whom have since pleaded guilty) and seized more than 500 pit bulls in eight states.
To read more about how undercover investigators spent nearly a year posing as dogfighters and handling pit bulls in dogfights across the Midwest, check out our feature story: Dog Beat Dog: To pull off the biggest pit bull fighting bust in U.S. history, investigators went deep undercover. So did their dogs.