ELKTON — The founder of a Rising Sun animal welfare nonprofit is now facing 121 animal cruelty charges — nearly triple the number filed against her in April — after the Cecil County State’s Attorney’s Office added 57 counts Tuesday in a new charging document.
Crystal Lorrain Romine, 37, of Rising Sun, is charged with three counts of aggravated animal cruelty relating her alleged deliberate torturing of three dogs in her care, according to Cecil County Circuit Court records.
The charging document alleges that Romine “did intentionally torture” three dogs named “Bodie,” “Jules” and “Apollo” between Dec. 10 through Jan. 17.
Aggravated animal cruelty is a felony that is punishable by up three years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Romine also is facing 118 misdemeanor animal cruelty charges due to her alleged failure to provide “nutritious food in sufficient quantity” and, or, proper amounts of water (“drink”), space and “necessary veterinary care” for 27 dogs in her care – including Bodie, Jules and Apollo – as well as 15 cats with names and approximately four others identified only as “No Name,” according to charging papers.
Animal cruelty relating to failure to provide those basic needs carries a maximum 90-day jail sentence and a $1,000 fine.
Those misdemeanors also occurred roughly between early to mid December through mid to late January, court records allege.
In some cases, dogs and cats listed in the charging document allegedly lacked ample nutritious food, drink and space while, in other cases, dogs and cats lacked some or one of those staples, court records show.
The charging document alleges that Romine failed to provide necessary veterinary care to 15 dogs, including Bodie, Jules and Apollo, within that time frame.
It names “Lydia,” “Max,” “Moe,” “Bristol,” “Zoey,” “Diesel,” “Sugar Bear,” “Mama Duke,” “Blade,” “Cookie,” “Baby Blue,” and “Smiles” as the other dogs that allegedly did not receive necessary veterinarian care.
Romine, who is scheduled for a Dec. 5 initial appearance, has maintained her innocence since before the original criminal case was filed against her in April. The early stages of the investigation resulted in authorities seizing some of the animals in question in February, prompting county officials to issue a press release.
She has contended that the animals in question were in better physical condition at the time that authorities seized them from her in February than when she had received them as rescues.
Romine originally faced 44 charges relating to her alleged animal cruelty, but prosecutors elected to dismiss that criminal case and file a new one against her.
On Tuesday, the SAO charged Romine by way of a criminal information, according to court records, which further indicate that Romine was not arrested but, instead, was served the document on Wednesday.
On July 12, in a procedural move to prepare for this criminal case with the additional charges against Romine, prosecutors dropped the original case that had been filed against her in April, court records show.
Interim Cecil County State’s Attorney James Dellmyer told the Cecil Whig on Thursday that the 121-count criminal information Romine now faces is the result of additional investigation.
Because the criminal case is now moving toward trial, however, Dellmyer declined to comment further.
Unlike district court charging documents, which typically include details contained in a “statement of probable cause” narrative, a criminal information provides only scant information.
It typically identifies the defendant, lists the charges by count and gives the date or time frame in which the offenses allegedly were committed.
The criminal information filed against Romine on Tuesday relates to and is based upon the original case against her.
The original 44 counts of animal cruelty against Romine related to her care of 30 dogs and 14 cats sheltered by her organization, according to Cecil County District Court records.
Romine, whose animal welfare nonprofit is called Eden Rehab and Rescue, allegedly committed those animal cruelty offenses from Dec. 10 through Jan. 17, the original charging document indicated.
In that original criminal case, Romine was arrested on April 4 and held on a $3,500 bond until the next day, when she was released on personal recognizance, court records show.
Her arrest occurred more than two months after Cecil County Animal Services officers took a total of 63 animals while conducting two search and seizures — one at her storefront space at 10 S. Queen St. in Rising Sun on Jan. 30, the other on Jan. 23 at kennel space she rented from Captain’s Quarters on Deaver Road near Elkton.
Those seizures were the result of an initial investigation that started Jan. 5, after CCAS had received a complaint alleging that the animals in the care of the rescue were not being fed or cared for properly, the agency reported at the time.
Romine told the Cecil Whig, however, that the animals were in better physical condition at the time of those seizures than when she had received them as rescues, providing emails detailing the medical needs of several of the animals she rescued.
She also provided the Whig with dozens of photos and videos of animals under her care taken in the months prior to the seizures, showing them at play, receiving training instructions from her or being groomed.
According to Eden’s website — which was taken down at some point after investigators seized the 63 animals — Romine founded Eden Rehab and Rescue in 1997 to help sick, injured and aggressive animals.
She reportedly became interested in rescues as a teen after she rehabilitated an emaciated horse named Frenchie, who was about to be shipped off to a glue company, the website indicated. Afterward, according to the website, she spent time at the SPCA in Florida.
The rescue primarily dealt with dogs and cats, but would also tend to exotic pets that were injured, sick or no longer wanted.
“Here at Eden Rehab & Rescue, we believe every animal should have a second chance and medical issues should not play a part in helping. Over the years, we have never turned down a sick animal and will always stay true to that,” the website stated. “We firmly believe, just because it looks less than perfect, does not mean it is. Everything deserves a second chance.”
Shortly after her arrest in the original case, Romine also maintained to the Whig that the number of seized animals was fewer than reported by the county, contending that more than a dozen were turned over by her to various rescue groups.
At the rented kennel, investigators found animals that they deemed to be in “deplorable conditions,” according to a CCAS written statement released after the January animal seizures.
CCAS animal welfare enforcement officers Daniel Puhalski and Tiffanie Woutila wrote in their charging document that numerous dogs were found Jan. 5 and 17 at the Elkton kennel to be emaciated and suffering from open sores, and one had a broken leg. The officers reported that Romine admitted during their first visit to have not provided veterinary care for the dogs while under her care.
Furthermore, Romine told the officers that she fed the dogs with most critical needs first and later fed the other dogs later that day or the next day, according to those court records.
Holly Carhart, owner of Captain’s Quarters, however, reportedly swore to an affidavit that said, “There were some days (Romine) had no dog food so no dog ate those days.”
During the Jan. 23 inspection, CCAS officers were unable to locate any cat food in the Elkton facility and Romine was unable to produce any, according to the original charging document. The CCAS officers also recorded unsanitary conditions in the kennel run area for the dogs and the litterboxes for the cats.
“The accumulation of animal feces and urine prevented said dog from using the kennel run out space for any type of movement or exercise without stepping on and entering into his own excrement and urine,” they reported. “Litterbox was completely filled with cat urine and feces, preventing them from using the bathroom without stepping on and entering into its own feces and urine, as well as the feces and urine of the other cats the animal was currently housed with.”
In all, 22 dogs and 26 cats were seized from the Elkton location.
Similar conditions were found during the animal seizure at at the Rising Sun storefront site on Jan. 30, when investigators seized eight additional cats and four dogs, as well as two turtles and a raccoon, county officials reported at the time.
At that Rising Sun location, CCAS investigators found cats with a lack of clean water, according to the original charging document, which also alleged that Romine had been feeding the cats dog food. Those court records indicated that Romine explained to CCAS agents that, at the time of the animal seizure, she did not have dry cat food on the premises.
Romine also allegedly did not provide litterboxes for some cats, causing them to urinate and defecate on the walls and floors, resulting in a strong ammonia smell. Some of the dogs at the Rising Sun location were reportedly, once again, found caged with excrement.
The original charging document alleged that Romine harmed or allowed harm to be caused to three dogs and that she failed to properly feed and maintain healthy living spaces to 41 other dogs and cats. Romine also stood accused of failing to feed the animals on a daily basis at the Elkton location.
After her arrest, in addition to contending that the animals were in worse shape when she received them than when CCSA investigators seized them, Romine told the Whig that she was aware of the skin issues with the dogs and was working on treatment.
She further explained that some of the dogs had been tested to determine the specific condition and that she was awaiting results when they were seized.
Romine told the Whig in April that, in the weeks after the animals were seized, she continued to receive support and donations for rescued animals, including dry and canned food for dog and cats.