Man accused of running illegal hog farm found guilty

Gary L. Morris Sr (Photo courtesy: Virginia Beach police)

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A Virginia Beach judge found a man guilty Monday on charges related to running an illegal hog farm.

Police said investigators discovered more than 100 hogs of different ages in December of 2015 living in deplorable conditions on city property off Salem Road.

The Animal Enforcement Unit said conditions at the farm appeared to have been that way for more than a week.

Photos: Illegal Hog Farm in Va. Beach

The owner of the hogs, Gary Lionel Morris Sr., was facing eight counts of cruelty to animals, among several other charges. Morris was found guilty on all counts in a court appearance Monday.

“I’ve never seen anything quite this disgusting,” said Judge Gene Woolard, who asked Morris how he could live with himself.

Animal Control Supervisor Meghan Conti testified that she was on the scene for several days.

“There was a huge amount of trash covering the whole property, from the very front all the way to the back, and it was trash, debris, just a mixture of items,” she said.

Prosecutors said one hog had died and more than two dozen were emaciated, found among “rotting, fermenting, maggot-covered piles of slop.” Animal Control officers testified they spent days removing the hogs and hundreds of dollars buying stores out of pig feed to care for them. Judge Woolard said he fed his own dog more than Morris fed the group of pigs.

“The conditions were very, very concerning when we were there investigating and you know, they stick in your mind,” Conti said.

Morris said heavy rain that week made a mess and that he had been going to the farm every day and buying food regularly, which he said included feed and old donuts.

Morris’ daughter said in January of 2016 that her mother was sick in the hospital and had passed away around this time. She said her father had to choose between caring for his wife and taking care of the hogs.

Following the trial, Morris had no comment, but his attorney James Brice said, “I think the whole situation was made much worse by the two Nor’easters that occurred the week before.”

A city spokesperson said the city was previously unaware the animals were on the property and that the land had been purchased years ago to protect Naval Air Station Oceana from encroachment.

Morris is not facing any jail time, but owes the city more than $4,000 and has a permanent ban on owning animals.He can appeal.

The Virginia Beach Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office released new photos Monday of the hog farm. The photos were used as evidence during the trial.