May 20, 2022

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Whitley sign war erupts

Neighbors’ feud goes public over grandchild, dead dogs, rabbits

By Becky Manley
The Journal Gazette

Photos by Becky Manley/The Journal Gazette
Pam, Ron and Chad Castle launched the Mowrey Road war of words with this sign after one of their dogs was killed.

Larry Shrock posted his own sign, that the dog killed his bunnies and scared his grandchild.

The Castles’ third sign disputes claims in the Shrocks’ single sign.

WHITLEY COUNTY – It started with the sound of a gunshot followed by a “god- awfulâ€? cry.
That’s what Pam Castle said she heard the evening of June 1 while she waited on her back porch for her two indoor dogs, Jake and Angel, to return from an outdoor break.
One of those dogs, Jake, a beagle mix less than 2 years old, would never return. Castle said Jake was shot by a neighbor, Larry Shrock, who burned the dog in another neighbor’s incinerator.
Jake’s death launched an ongoing debate between the Castles and the Shrocks, with arguments and counterarguments delivered through an unusual medium – large painted signs.
Eastbound drivers along Mowrey Road, just outside Columbia City, can see the Castles’ signs after cresting a small hill. Although the plywood signs are large, measuring about 4 feet by 8 feet, and the messages are written with blood-red paint, slower speeds are needed to see more than the phrases that leap out such as “Shot My Dog,â€? “Dog Killer,â€? and “Burned It.â€?
After Jake was shot, the Castles confronted the Shrocks, who called the Whitley County Sheriff’s Department. Police told the Castles to stay off the Shrocks’ property.
But Ron Castle still had more he wanted to say to Larry Shrock.
So he put up the first sign June 4.
It reads: “My Neighbor, Larry Shrock House on Left up on Hill (arrow) Shot My Dog, Then Burned It. What a Piece of (expletive).â€?
“I didn’t know what else to do,â€? Ron Castle said. “What can I do to this man that has caused me so much grief?â€?
After posting the sign, Pam Castle said, another neighbor accused Shrock of shooting a second dog.
That prompted Ron Castle to make a second sign June 7.
It reads: “Mowrey Road Dog Killer Ahead On Left, Two Shot and Killed, One Burned.â€?
After the Castles posted the second sign, the Shrocks rebutted with a sign of their own that spoke of pet bunnies being killed by a neighbor’s dog, a frightened grandchild, and that the neighbor had been warned twice.
Ron and Pam Castle dispute the claim of rabbit deaths caused by their dogs.
“I would have been the first person to apologize to Larry and Dianne and I would have paid to take care of their (rabbit) cages,â€? Pam Castle said.
The Shrocks’ sign rebuttal prompted Ron Castle to make a third sign, which says no rabbits were harmed and that no frightened grandchildren had been mentioned in the police report.
According to the police report, the Shrocks said they had asked the Castles to keep their dogs at home after the dogs had threatened rabbits the Shrocks keep in hutches on their property.
When the dogs returned, Larry Shrock reported that he shot one of them and disposed of it in a neighbor’s incinerator.
The Shrocks also told police that Chad Castle, Ron Castle’s son, had threatened them.
All three Castles maintain that although strong words were exchanged that night, the Shrocks weren’t threatened.
Pam Castle said that Larry and Dianne Shrock had stopped by her house about a week before Jake was shot to tell her to keep their dogs at home.
Despite the warning, Pam Castle said, she still let her dogs out.
“I let them out because I live in the country and I live out here for a reason. I live out here so my animals don’t have to be tied.â€?
Now the Castle family, Ron Castle perhaps most of all, is grieving his lost friend.
“That part of me is always going to be missing,â€? he said. “How can people be so evil and heartless?â€?
When asked for their side of the story, the Shrocks said the police report is an accurate representation of what happened.
“My wife and I fear for our lives, so we don’t want to comment,â€? Larry Shrock said.
The Shrocks have since removed their sign from their yard, but the Castles’ signs remain.
As does their determination to fight what they believe is the wrongful death of their beloved family pet.
“He was such a big part of my life that most of me is still hurting,â€? Ron Castle said.
In addition to calling the media and groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Humane Society, the Castles are exploring legal options.
“He incinerated something that wasn’t his,â€? Pam Castle said. “So, do I have something? Possibly. Am I going to push? You bet.â€?
Although Ron Castle said he appreciates the support his family has received from neighbors since he made the signs, he still aches for his friend who eagerly greeted him whenever he came home.
“He’s taken something away from me, and I’m never going to get it back.â€?

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