Case Snapshot
Case ID: 17056
Classification: Burning - Caustic Substance, Beating
Animal: dog (non pit-bull)
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Attorneys/Judges
Prosecutor(s): Felicia Nagle
Judge(s): Michael Bush


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Saturday, Dec 4, 2010

County: Kern

Charges: Felony CTA
Disposition: Convicted
Case Images: 2 files available

Defendant/Suspect: Robert Gonzales

Case Updates: 4 update(s) available

A dog that has been chemically burned, allegedly by its owner, is being treated at Coffee Road Animal Hospital to try to save its eyesight.

Law enforcement said it's a case of animal cruelty and the doctors at Coffee Road Animal Hospital are doing what they can for the dog.

The BPD said the little terrier named Lacie was attacked by her owner, Robert Gonzales, last week. Police also said that Gonzales tied the dog up, sprayed bleach on her face and beat it with a golf club.

Doctors treated Lacie for complications from burns covering her face and eyes. Friday, the dog was resting comfortably after surgery and doctors said they won't know for a few weeks if her eyesight will be saved.

The hospital has received calls of support from all over the country after the story spread on social networking sites. The cost of the surgery and treatment is more than $1,000, which has been met by contributions. The hospital will be setting up a fund for abused dogs with money that exceeds the medical costs. If you would like to help, contact the Coffee Road Animal Hospital at 661-587-1976.

Friends of Kern County Animal Shelter Foundation is also accepting donations to pay for a rescue home for rehabilitation once Lacie is released. If you'd like to help, you can mail checks to the Friends Foundation at P.O. Box 11494, Bakersfield, CA 93389.

Gonzales was arrested on animal cruelty and drug possession charges.


Case Updates

With animal rights activists protesting outside the courthouse, animal abuser Robert Gonzales was sentenced to three years probation Wednesday, the first year of it to be served in Kern County Jail.

Gonzales, 43, took a deal last month, pleading no contest to felony animal cruelty and possession of a controlled substance.

Prosecutor Felicia Nagle had asked for 16 months in prison, noting that Gonzales tied a dog to a tree, duct taped her mouth shut, sprayed bleach in her eyes and hit her in the mouth with a golf club.

"He tortured an animal weighing between six and seven pounds," Nagle said.

In light of Gonzales' previous criminal history and the fact that he had already violated the terms of his probation in an unrelated misdemeanor case, "Probation is not appropriate in this particular case," she said.

At the time of his arrest in December of last year, Gonzales had been charged with misdemeanor vandalism stemming from allegedly flattening the tire of a vehicle parked in front of a neighbor's home.

Superior Court Judge Michael Bush said he worried that Gonzales would not be adequately supervised upon release if he served only jail time, and that what was "best for society" was for Gonzales to undergo counseling.

Gonzales can't own or possess any animals during his three years of probation. He was also ordered to undergo substance abuse treatment and to obtain counseling from Lorin Lindner, a clinical psychologist with offices in Frazier Park who is certified to work with animal abusers through a program called AniCare. That treatment program would last a minimum of 12 weeks.

Gonzales officially relinquished legal ownership of the dog, whose name is Lacey, at Wednesday's hearing.

After Gonzales' arrest, Bakersfield City Animal Control seized the small blond-colored terrier, who survived the abuse and has been staying in a foster home while receiving medical attention. The Friends of the Kern County Animal Shelters Foundation has raised more than $13,000 for Lacey's veterinary bills, far more than the roughly $3,400 that was needed after some services were donated. The extra money is being used to treat two other abused dogs and whatever's left over after that will be set aside for future abuse cases, said foundation president Judi Daunell.

The city has been flooded with requests from families anxious to adopt Lacey, but at a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Kern County Public Health Services Department Director Matthew Constantine said Lacey has become very attached to the foster family that is caring for her, and officials hope that family will adopt her.

Lacey was placed in a foster home in which there was medical expertise because she requires around-the-clock care and at one point was taking about 10 medications a day, Constantine said. She has undergone surgery twice to save her eyesight, at Coffee Road Animal Hospital in Bakersfield and at specialist Eye Care for Animals in Pasadena. There is some permanent damage, but a degree of sight has been restored and she is "happy and healthy" now despite chemical burns to her eyes, face and ears, Constantine said.

"It's a wonderful end to a horriffic story," he said.

Officials had hoped to bring Lacey to the press conference, but she's still extremely skittish around people she doesn't know, Constantine said.

About a half dozen animal rights activists picketed outside the courthouse during Gonzales' sentencing Wednesday morning, carrying signs that read "Justice 4 for Lacey" and "Honk 4 Lacey." The same protesters were there during a previous hearing in which sentencing was delayed to explore counseling options.

Demonstrator Karen Marousek of Bakersfield was there both days, representing a group called Justice for Paws.

After the sentencing, Marousek said while she would have preferred the maximum sentence, she agreed with the judge that "counseling is appropriate" and would likely make a difference in deterring future attacks against animals.

Nagle, who outside the courtroom described herself as a dog lover, also said she would have preferred more jail time.

"I'm a little disappointed," she said.

Asked if Gonzales had expressed remorse at any point in the plea deal negotiations, Nagle said simply, "No."
Source: bakersfield.com - May 18, 2011
Update posted on May 18, 2011 - 9:28PM 
The sentencing of a man who brutally abused a small dog was delayed one week while it's determined whether there is a probation program suitable for this type of crime.

Defendant Robert Gonzales, wearing white khakis and a collared shirt, was taken into custody anyway at the 8:30 a.m. Thursday hearing because of misdemeanor warrants for vandalism and failing to appear in court in separate cases. He was ordered held on $50,000 bail.

Sentencing was rescheduled for May 18. Gonzales took a plea deal last month in which the District Attorney's office agreed to ask for no more than 16 months in prison, but he is asking for probation instead of prison. The 43-year-old pleaded no contest to felony animal cruelty and possession of a controlled substance.

Superior Court Judge Michael Lewis postponed sentencing because he had no specifics on counseling programs that could possibly help Gonzales. Lewis said Gonzales is "a marginal candidate, if not completely unsuitable for probation."

Prosecutor Felicia Nagle said in court that Gonzales tied the dog, named Lacey, to a tree and put jalapeno juice in its mouth. Then he duct taped the dog's mouth shut, sprayed bleach in her eyes and hit her in the mouth with a golf club, Nagle said.

Nagle said after the hearing that she was reserving comment until Gonzales is sentenced. Gonzales' attorney, Janice Kim, declined comment.

Lewis said he had read a letter sent from the Animals and Society Institute and he wanted to know more about what counseling they offer before imposing Gonzales' sentence.

Reached late Thursday afternoon, Dr. Lorin Lindner, a clinical psychologist in Frazier Park who is certified to work with animal abusers through a program called AniCare that is used by the institute, said first an assessment would be performed on Gonzales and then he would go through a treatment program that would last a minimum of 12 weeks.

The program combines, among other things, cognitive behavioral therapy and social learning elements to teach empathy and respect in interactions with both animals and people, Lindner said. One of the major components is for the person to accept responsibility for their actions.

The program is not a substitute for jail, Lindner said.

"We're all for him serving whatever time he should be serving," she said.

Six demonstrators held up signs with "Justice 4 Lacey" and "Honk 4 Lacey" written on them in front of the courthouse and at the intersection of Chester and Truxtun avenues before Gonzales' hearing. One man had two dogs on leashes by his side.

Organizer Karen Marousek said they're asking that Gonzales be given the maximum sentence. She said she'll organize another demonstration for the sentencing next week.

Lacey survived and an emergency fund established by the Friends of the Kern County Animal Shelters Foundation raised more than $13,000 toward treating her.

At the time of his arrest for animal abuse, Gonzales had been charged with misdemeanor vandalism stemming from allegedly flattening the tire of a vehicle parked in front of his next-door neighbor's home. The vehicle's occupant, Sophia Sliter, whose daughter is the mother of Gonzales' three children, set up a security camera that videotaped the incident, according to Bakersfield police.

Kelee Sliter, the mother of Gonzales' children, obtained a three-year restraining order against Gonzales in 2009 that limits contact with her, according to a civil case in Kern County Superior Court.
Source: bakersfield.com - May 12, 2011
Update posted on May 13, 2011 - 11:32AM 
Prosecutors filed felony animal cruelty charges Monday against a Bakersfield man who allegedly beat a small dog with a golf club and sprayed bleach into the dog's eyes.

But the suspect, 43-year-old Robert Gonzales, in a telephone interview with The Californian called those "false allegations" and asserted that he is being described as "a person that I am not." He said the dog, Lacey, was accidentally injured when she tipped over a bucket of bleach in his garage on Nov. 29.

Gonzales also denied a host of other public allegations against him including a separate misdemeanor case of vandalizing his neighbor's car, a domestic violence case of threatening to kill the mother of his three children and a report from his children's mother that he showed the injured dog to his 12-year-old son and indicated he caused the dog's bleach injuries.

The injuries to the nearly 7-pound dog named Lacey were so disturbing to people that an online petition was started Monday by animal welfare advocates who want "rigorous prosecution" of Gonzales for felony animal abuse.

The link -- http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/Convict-Laceys-Abuser/ -- was set up by Karen Marousek of Justice4Paws, a group that got thousands of signatures in case earlier this year when a man was charged with tying and leaving a pitbull to die in a Lamont field. The suspect in that case pled no contest to a felony animal abuse charge for a 120-day jail term, though he was allowed to apply for work release.

In the current case, the dog was taken to Coffee Road Animal Hospital for surgery on her left eye, which had ruptured, and her right ear, which had been burned. The hospital staff said they have been overwhelmed with donations to help Lacey. Kern County Animal Control has found a rescue home to care for Lacey, Kern County Public Health Services reported.

Gonzales was arrested Dec. 4 after Bakersfield police responded to a report of animal cruelty, Sgt. Mary DeGeare said. A witness reported to police that Gonzales sprayed Lacey with bleach and hit her in the mouth with a golf club, DeGeare said.

The dog, which was found tethered on a short leash to a tree, had been untreated for several days prior to her rescue, the Department of Public Health Services reported.

Kelee Sliter, the mother of Gonzales' three children, ages 2, 5 and 12, told The Californian that on Dec. 1, Gonzales showed the dog to her 12-year-old son and told the boy if he (Gonzales) had done that to a person, he would be in prison. She said she has taken her son to counseling over the matter.

Gonzales said his son saw the dog that day, but denied anything sinister. He said his son got out of school early and came to his house because his normal caretaker, Sophia Sliter -- Kelee's mother and his next-door neighbor -- wasn't home yet. Gonzales said his son just saw the dog in the back yard.

Gonzales said he didn't have any money to treat the dog until his unemployment check arrived on Dec. 4 -- the day of his arrest -- when he planned to take the dog to a hospital. He said he got a friend, who works at a veterinary clinic, to treat the dog on Dec. 2 when the friend "flushed the dog's eyes out and cleaned it up."

Gonzales said the golf club allegation is false. "I don't know where that came from," he said. "The dog had no broken bones."

Police arrested Gonzales on Dec. 4 not only on animal abuse charges, but on felony possession of drugs, and misdemeanor charges of possession of a switchblade knife and possession of drug paraphernalia. Prosecutor David Ingram said Monday he filed all those charges against Gonzales. An arraignment is set Friday.

A misdemeanor vandalism case against Gonzales is set for an arraignment on Dec. 29. Bakersfield police reported that the family of Sophia Sliter -- the next door neighbors -- said they had captured Gonzales on a security camera flattening one of the tires on a family vehicle in front of the house. The Sliters said they set up the video because of other vandalism suspicions they had about Gonzales, a police investigation report says.

Gonzales said a police officer told him he was on the camera and his reply was "I guess I'm caught." Gonzales said the officer then told him it was just a shadow and Gonzales said he was kidding about the "I'm caught" comment because he knows he didn't damage the tire.

Gonzales said he's had a lot of problems with the Sliter family, but he has no criminal record in Bakersfield. The Superior Court website lists three prior misdemeanor cases brought against Gonzales, but no convictions.

In November, 2009, Kelee Sliter obtained a three-year restraining order against Gonzales after she complained he threatened to shoot her or kill her so many times, their then 3-year-old daughter was repeating the threat. Sliter also said in the restraining order case that he has never physically hurt her but that she was in fear for her safety.

Gonzales said that "out of anger we both said things." He said he never documented what she said, but she wrote down what she says he said. He said he's never hurt her.
Source: bakersfield.com - Dec 13 2010
Update posted on Dec 17, 2010 - 11:44AM 
Outrage and horror followed news that a Bakersfield man allegedly brutalized a 7-pound dog by hitting her in the mouth with a golf club and spraying bleach in her eyes.

Robert Gonzales, 43, was arrested Dec. 4 after Bakersfield Police officers received a report of animal cruelty. The dog, Lacey, was found tied to a tree.

Gonzales, who has a prior restraining order against him, was booked on felony charges of possession of a controlled substance and possession of a prohibited weapon, according to Bakersfield police.

He was also charged with animal cruelty under Penal Code section 597(b), which can be punished as a misdemeanor or felony.

Gonzales has since bailed out of jail, according to his neighbor who is also the mother of his former girlfriend with whom he has children.

The neighbor said her daughter left Gonzales two years ago but he remained in the home.

Records show the former girlfriend obtained a domestic violence restraining order against Gonzales in October 2009. It remains in force until November 2012.

Gonzales has had Lacey at least two years, said the neighbor. She said Lacey was a very good dog.

"She wouldn't even leave his yard if she was out front by herself."

Lacey was brought to Coffee Road Animal Hospital for surgery on her left eye, which had ruptured. Dr. Julie Mischke said the surgery went well but they won't know if she will regain sight in that eye for several weeks.

They were able to save her right ear, which hospital staff thought the might have to be amputated as it was also severely burned.

The hospital has been overwhelmed with donations to aid in Lacey's treatment from Kern County and around the country.

Lacey, who Mishke described as very sweet -- "She just wants to curl up in your lap. As much pain as she has suffered she's never once offered to bite" -- is now living with a foster family.

Anger over Lacey's torture has been extreme.

The Californian had to shut down comments on its online story Saturday morning as some people went so far as to call for vigilante justice and listed Gonzales' address, a description of his vehicle and even named his children.

While disgust and anger are understandable when faced with this kind of senseless violence against such a helpless creature, Judi Daunelle, president of Friends of the Kern County Animal Control Foundation, on Saturday urged calm.

What's needed now is for people to channel that emotion into making sure the Kern County District Attorney's office follows up to the fullest extent of the law, Daunell said.

She reminded readers that prosecutors charged James D. Worley with two felony counts of animal cruelty for hogtying and leaving a pit bull to die in a Lamont field last April after Friends circulated a petition asking for maximum prosecution.

"We ultimately had thousands of signatures and that made a difference," Daunell said.

Worley pleaded no contest to a felony charge of animal cruelty. He was sentenced to 120 days in jail and allowed to apply for work release. National and international outrage followed that case as well.

The pit bull, named England, was adopted by a rescue organization founded by actress Katherine Heigl.
Source: bakersfield.com - Dec 12, 2010
Update posted on Dec 12, 2010 - 6:05PM 

References

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