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story.lead_photo.caption A wild turkey is released Saturday from a plane flying over Crooked Creek during the annual Turkey Trot in Yellville. - Photo by Andy Shupe

A Bruno woman has filed a second complaint this month against the "Phantom Pilot" of the Yellville Turkey Trot festival.

Rose Hilliard said she went to the Marion County sheriff's office Monday to file an animal-cruelty complaint about live turkeys being tossed from an airplane as it flew near the festival Saturday.

Hilliard filed a similar complaint Oct. 2, but that one apparently involved a different Phantom Pilot because a different plane dropped a dozen turkeys over Crooked Creek during last year's Turkey Trot festival.

The 1966 Piper PA-28-140 that flew by the festival Saturday and dropped several turkeys is registered to Aldino Raimondi of Yellville, according to Federal Aviation Administration records.

Raimondi didn't return messages left for him Wednesday.

Hilliard is alleging animal cruelty and abandonment under Arkansas Code 5-62-103. It's usually a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. Upon a fourth conviction within five years, cruelty to animals becomes a felony in Arkansas, and the guilty party is ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

On Oct. 10, Marion County Sheriff Clinton Evans said the one-year statute of limitations had expired regarding the turkeys that were dropped at the festival Oct. 7-8, 2016, but he forwarded an investigative report to Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Kenford Carter anyway. Evans noted that he wasn't sheriff last year.

Hilliard said she filed her initial complaint Oct. 2, which was before the statute of limitations expired, and a similar complaint from a representative of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals was delivered to the sheriff's office in July.

Under Arkansas Code 5-1-109, the statute of limitations hinges on the amount of time between the crime and when a prosecution commences.

The FAA will look into Saturday's turkey drop, said Lynn Lunsford, a spokesman for the agency.

"From initial accounts, it appears that this pilot followed the same procedures as last year," Lunsford said in an email. "We plan to look into the most recent flights to determine whether safety regulations were violated."

For about 15 years, Dana Woods, a Mountain View pharmacist and alderman, was the Phantom Pilot. FAA investigators met with Woods and determined that he wasn't doing anything that violated their rules because the turkeys were being "released" from his plane as it flew over Crooked Creek and adjacent fields. As long as the turkeys weren't being dropped over people or property that could be damaged, the FAA couldn't do anything about it.

"FAA regulations don't specifically deal with dropping live animals out of airplanes, so we have no authority to prohibit the practice," Lunsford said. "This does not mean we endorse it."

For more than 50 years, an airplane has flown by the festival and dropped live turkeys from the sky. People -- usually children -- chase down the turkeys and take them back to the festival on the downtown Yellville square so they can show them off.

Wild turkeys can fly at speeds up to 55 mph, but they usually fly from treetop to treetop, at an altitude of less than 100 feet.

Hilliard said animal-welfare activists acquired four of the turkeys that were tossed from buildings or from the stage at this year's Turkey Trot. They'll be transported to a "farm sanctuary" where they can live out their lives in peace, she said.

They have been named John, Paul, George and Ringo.

Metro on 10/19/2017

Print Headline: Festival's new pilot is target of filing; City’s turkey drop leads to complaint

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