Three of the four men involved in what investigators say is one of the worst cases of animal cruelty in South Florida history were back in Miami-Dade County Court Tuesday.
Daniel Lombana, 36, Andre Martinez, 45, and Jesus Navarro, 51, are accused of operating a slaughterhouse that killed up to at least 150 animals a week.
Before a judge Tuesday, Martinez and Lombana plead not guilty to charges of animal cruelty. Navarro also appeared in court Tuesday but his arraignment was postponed for Wednesday.
Investigators say the men, along with 51-year-old Juan Bazan, are responsible for torturing and brutally slaughtering animals for meat for the last several decades.
Richard Couto, the founder and a current investigator for Animal Recovery Mission, along with several other South Florida agencies, conducted an eight month investigation before raiding the slaughterhouse in southwest Miami-Dade County last month.
"These animals were brutally tortured, not just the slaughtering or the killing of these animals but the torture prior to their deaths is awful," Couto said. "A lot of these animals were starved to death and some were fed intestines of other animals that were just slaughtered. Stabbing them to death, really taking the enjoyment out of the torture of them."
Couto also said just about any animal was game for slaughtering. "They used rabbits, goats, sheep, every kind of bird imaginable, horses and cattle," he said.
After his meeting in court Tuesday Martinez spoke to NBC 6 only in Spanish, saying he never brutally butchered any animals and sold meat as a butcher so he could make a living.
Bazan is scheduled to be in court on July 22. After that, the judge is requiring all men to be together in court on August 8th.