| Crime |

Susan Hawk Demands to Know Why Craig Watkins Dropped 30 Felony Charges In Trinity Pig Blood Case

Keep Dallas Observer Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Dallas and help keep the future of Dallas Observer free.

Earlier this week, the Dallas County District Attorney's office mysteriously dropped all felony charges against Columbia Packing Co. and its vice president, Joseph Carl Ondrusek Jr., for dumping pig blood into a tributary of the Trinity River in January 2012. Counting last month's dismissal of the charges against Donny Ondrusek (another vice president and Joseph's cousin), 30 counts of criminal water pollution and evidence tampering vanished.

In exchange, the company pleaded guilty to "unauthorized discharge," a misdemeanor, and agreed to pay a $100,000 fine.

It's a stupefying end to what has seemed like a slam dunk case from the time a hobbyist's remotely controlled aircraft first photographed a ribbon of scarlet flowing into the Trinity. Councilman Dwaine Caraway is stupefied, charging that the two-plus year investigation conducted by Dallas County Health and Human Services, Texas Parks and Wildlife, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency, was "mishandled."

Attorneys for Columbia and the Ondruseks maintain the discharge was accidental and that Tuesday's dismissal of charges is proof of that.

One of the few people who can say definitively why the charges were dropped is District Attorney Craig Watkins, and he's not talking.

Susan Hawk, the Republican former state district judge challenging Watkins for his seat in November, took the opportunity to fire the first legitimate public volley of the general election campaign.

"Our citizens deserve more than a 'no comment,'" Hawk said in a press release. "These are serious charges that deal with the health and welfare of thousands of citizens, and for the District Attorney to request dismissal without any sort of explanation to the public shows a complete lack of accountability."

Maybe "complete lack of accountability" is overstating things, but it's hard to argue with the broader point. If the charges were dropped because someone screwed up, you should say so. If it was, as the Ondrusek family says, all just an accident, why'd you try to throw the book at them in the first place?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.

Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.