- The Washington Times - Monday, May 21, 2007

SURRY, Va. — As state officials plan to meet today to review evidence of dog fighting against Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, some residents in this town near the James River are eager for the circus surrounding their famous but rarely seen neighbor to die down — charges filed or not.

“It was peaceful until people started making all this noise,” said neighbor Ernest Hardy, who lives next to the home Vick owned on Moonlight Road where the purported dogfights occurred. “The Moonlight ain’t been right since. Normally you can hear a tractor echoing through the woods.”

Vick’s possible link to dog fighting inside the home surfaced last month after police reportedly found evidence of pit bull fighting while following up on a drug arrest involving Vick’s cousin. They said they found a blood-stained carpet, a digital dog scale, whips, an electric treadmill modified for dog training and a “pry bar” to pry apart a dog’s jaws. Roughly 60 dogs also were taken from the home.

Vick could face felony charges with punishment of up to five years in prison and fines.

So far, no charges have been brought against Vick, 26, who played at Warwick High School in Newport News, south of here, and starred at quarterback for Virginia Tech before entering the NFL Draft in 2001.

Vick said he bought the home for his cousin and had no knowledge of the dog fights. However, local animal control coordinator Kathy Strouse, who took part in the investigation, said an informant can place him at the fights.

Town residents have questioned how Surry County Sheriff Harold Brown could not have known about the fights and wonder why he waited to take action until now, when he is seeking re-election.

Brown has said officers responded to calls at the property for house alarms and a brush fire but found nothing unusual.

Residents also have questioned why Vick immediately sold the house for half its assessed value of $747,000. A business owner said “heads will turn” when the name of the buyer is revealed.

Inside the county clerk’s office, temporarily housed in a one-room building until renovations are completed, a clerk threw her hands into the air at the sight of another reporter last week. She said they had no information about who purchased Vick’s home, which sits across from a withered looking Baptist church and peanut, cotton and corn fields.

Surry County Commonwealth’s Attorney Gerald Poindexter has said little but has pointed out Vick is a registered breeder. For Vick to have a lot of dogs, he said, “doesn’t mean a whole lot.”

He also said “the likelihood to me that Michael was there, with organized dog fighting and wagering and everything, I don’t believe it.”

Poindexter’s account conflicts with news reports and Strouse’s statement suggesting Vick was aware of the fights. Poindexter said on local TV news he did not see scarring on dogs removed from the house even though the station showed images of scarred dogs.

“I think a lot of us would like to see it prosecuted but don’t think it is going to happen,” said a woman at the Surrey House Restaurant who asked not to be identified.

Some residents say Vick should be punished. Some say he is getting a raw deal in the media. Others do not seem to care.

“As far as residents around here, everybody is laid back, and it is not a big deal to us,” said Trenton Drew, a 39-year-old beer distributor. “I never heard of what was alleged here going on in the county.”

“I think it is frustrating for residents,” said Ann Hiner, a hostess at the Surrey House Restaurant. “To me, [Surry] hasn’t changed a whole lot from what it was 50 years ago.”

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