Tewksbury Senior Center Director Charged With Animal CrueltyMay 07, 2020 10:06PM ● By Bill Gilman
Tewksbury Council on Aging Director Nicole Hutcheon, with two of her dogs. (Facebook page profile photo)
The director of the Tewksbury Council on Aging and Senior Center has been placed on unpaid administrative leave, following her indictment on charges of animal cruelty.
Nicole Hutcheon, 33, of Tewksbury was arraigned telephonically in Lowell District Court on three counts of animal cruelty and one count of witness intimidation in connection with allegedly failing to care for multiple dogs in her custody and misleading investigators, according to Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan.
Tewksbury Town Manager Richard Montuori confirmed Thursday that Hutcheon had been relieved of her duties, pending the outcome of the case. He also offered a reassurance to Tewksbury senior citizens.
"The Senior Center is still providing essential services to the Seniors of the Community. Services and Operations will not be impacted," he said.
Senior citizens have been particularly vulnerable during the pandemic, both in terms of contracting the COVID-19 virus but also in terms of loss of access to resources and interactions with friends and family. Local senior centers and councils on aging have been shouldering a large percentage of the responsibility for addressing the needs of seniors in their communities.
According to a press release issues by Ryan's office, the charges against Hutcheon stem from an investigation into the well-being of a dog she had been fostering. The subsequent investigation found that dog, as well as another dog in Hutcheon's care, had allegedly starved to death.
The full press release reads as follows:
On April 5, 2020, Tewksbury Animal Control received a request for a well-being check on a dog allegedly in the defendant’s care from an agency that fosters dogs in the area. The agency had allegedly become concerned about a German Shepherd that had been in the foster care of the defendant after the agency had stopped receiving updates about that dog. The agency also had knowledge about other dogs in the defendant’s care that they were also concerned about.
Investigators allegedly learned that the German Shepherd the agency had expressed concern about had allegedly died in the defendant’s care and that the defendant had not reported the death of the dog. The cause of death was later ruled starvation. Investigators also located another German Shepherd puppy in the home that appeared to be underweight. The subsequent investigation further revealed that another German Shepherd, that had been adopted by the defendant, had also died while allegedly in her care and that the defendant had allegedly attempted to hide the remains of the animal.
Judge Ellen Caulo released the defendant on personal recognizance and ordered her to not adopt any new animals and to submit to unannounced visits from animal control regarding an emotional support dog still in her custody. The prosecutor assigned to today’s arraignment was Emma Sipperly. The next date in this case is June 23, 2020.
This is an ongoing investigation being conducted by the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office and Tewksbury Police.
The status of Ms. Hutcheon’s position with the Council on Aging is currently under review by Town Officials.