Case Snapshot
Case ID: 4775
Classification: Mutilation/Torture, Theft
Animal: dog (non pit-bull)
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Thursday, Jun 2, 2005

County: Aroostook

Disposition: Convicted

Defendants/Suspects:
» 17 year old boy - Alleged
» Joshua Dunn
» Benjamin Benedict

Case Updates: 4 update(s) available

Three teens who allegedly wanted to kill something "not human" are being held at a state youth center and under house arrest after they allegedly cut, stabbed and beat to death a dog that they stole from the yard of a local resident.

The three Presque Isle boys, ages 17, 17 and 16, were arrested in early June for aggravated animal cruelty and theft. Two of the teens were on juvenile probation from the Mountain View Juvenile Correction Facility in Charleston for prior felony crimes.

Police did not release information on the case until this week, and they are not releasing the teens' identities because of their ages. "We get complaints of abuse to animals, but not like this," Police Chief Naldo Gagnon said Tuesday. As he reviewed the case, he shook his head and looked down at his hands. "It's quite a horrific crime."

The trio allegedly entered a back yard near the city's bike path on late June 1 or early June 2 and took the dog with the intent to kill it, Presque Isle Detective Wayne Selfridge said in a press release.

The aggravated charge is because of the "depraved indifference that the youths displayed in how they slaughtered the dog," Selfridge said.

The 4-year-old female mixed breed was trusting of humans and offered no resistance, even during the ensuing assault, the detective said. The teens allegedly tied the dog's head close to a fallen tree and took turns impaling the animal.

Police discounted local rumors that the killing was part of a ritualistic satanic sacrifice; officials said the dog was not hanged, garroted or otherwise mutilated.

The executed animal was left in the bike path area across from Presque Isle High School and Zippel Elementary School at a place where adolescents hang out before school. Police believe the dead animal was placed there purposely so students would see it in the morning before school. Police added that the juveniles who committed the crimes were not SAD 1 pupils.

The dog's remains were found on the morning of June 2 by a man who was walking his dog along the bike path. When police arrived at what they thought was an accidental or natural death, they discovered wounds that appeared to be human-inflicted injuries, Selfridge said.

Officials took the dog to a local veterinarian who conducted a necropsy. The multiple cut, stab and slicing wounds, coupled with signs of blunt striking trauma, indicated that the death the dog suffered was criminally inflicted, the detective said.

Officials are not sure how long the dog suffered before it died.

Through an investigation by Sgt. Mark Barnes, Selfridge and state animal welfare agent Jennifer Howlett, and with additional help from Officer Roger Ellis, officials were able to piece together the events surrounding the dog's death.

At about 1:45 a.m. June 2, Presque Isle dispatch received a complaint of a dog howling in a residential area. An officer checked the residence, and the dog owner said she would bring her dog inside for the night. She also told the officer that her other dog broke free from its chain and she didn't know where it was. She asked that if police located her dog that they return it. Police checked the area but did not find the dog.

At about 2:50 a.m., in a seemingly unrelated incident, a woman called the dispatch to report that a male had been by her residence and she didn't want him there. She suspected that he had been drinking and was underage.

At about 3:15 a.m., Officer Roger Ellis located two young men walking near the woman's residence. He warned them not to contact the woman, and then, smelling an odor of alcohol on their breath, he took them to the Police Department for a breathalyzer test.

After the test was completed, Ellis summoned the teens for illegal possession and consumption of alcohol by a minor. Police contacted the juvenile intake worker, who arranged to speak with the teens the next day. Officials set a court date for the teens for Aug. 4. The teens were released to their fathers, but not before Ellis mentally noted that one of the teens had a significant amount of blood on one of his hands.

On June 2 after police learned about the dog slaying, Ellis "put two and two together" and the teens immediately became suspects, Chief Gagnon said. The police worked in coordination with state authorities, treating the case as if it were a human fatality. They conducted crime scene analysis, necropsy of the dog, obtained a search warrant for clothing and DNA and interviewed possible witnesses and the three suspects, Selfridge said.

The motive for the crime was cited as "wanting to kill something not human," the detective said.

The two teens on juvenile probation have been ordered held for future confinement until their court appearance. The third teen was released to a family guardian and was placed under house arrest. Gagnon said a juvenile intake worker will determine their court dates.

Their theft charge is a misdemeanor; the aggravated animal cruelty is a Class C felony. Gagnon said there is talk of charging the teens as adults for the crimes because of their criminal histories. The chief said the three do not have a criminal history of cruelty to animals.

Police are not releasing the dog owner's identity at her request. She told police that she and her young child considered their pet to be a member of the family. "They took something precious," she said.


Case Updates

Judge Bernard O'Mara sentenced Joshua Dunn, 17, to remain in Department of Corrections custody until he is 21. A condition of his sentence required that Dunn not use, maintain or have ownership of any animals for the rest of his life.

Court officials set a provision in place that Dunn could petition later in his life to have the condition reversed if he could show he had changed. The sentencing recommendation - the maximum allowable sentence for the crime - was a joint proposal by Catherine Francke of the Aroostook County District Attorney's Office and Dunn's lawyer, Sarah LeClaire of Presque Isle.

Dunn, who appeared before the judge in a black tank top and baggy, gray pants, sat quietly next to his lawyer as the judge handed down the sentence.

Dunn and Benjamin Benedict, 16, were accused in June of cutting, beating and stabbing to death a local dog named C.C. after taking her from her owner's yard. The case drew global attention as people learned about the incident, then flooded the local District Attorney's Office with letters, faxes and phone calls.

Dunn and Benedict, who were convicted in July of animal cruelty and theft by unauthorized taking, were identified after their juvenile arraignments were made open to the public because of convictions from past crimes. A third teen who allegedly was involved in the dog slaying has not been identified and his case will not be made public.

Benedict was sentenced in July immediately following his conviction. The court delayed Dunn's sentencing pending a diagnostic evaluation.

At Dunn's sentencing Thursday, Judge O'Mara told the youth that while he had done some "dumb, impulsive" things in the past, this crime crossed the line to "something truly terrible."

O'Mara told Dunn it was his responsibility to do something with his life so he could avoid doing life in jail "on the installment plan."

Following the judge's words, Dunn quietly said, "Thank you, sir," then was escorted out of the courtroom by a deputy with the Aroostook County Sheriff's Department. He is expected to return to the Mountain View Youth Center in Charleston where he has been held since his arrest.

To send a letter to the prosecutor and judge in this case, thanking them for taking this terrible act of cruelty seriously, write to:

The Honorable Bernard O'Mara
Maine District Court
PO Box 794, Presque Isle, Maine 04769
(207) 764-2055

The Honorable Neale T. Adams
Aroostook County District Attorney
27 Riverside Dr.
Presque Isle, ME 04769
207-764-0504 phone
207-764-2046 fax
Source: Bangor Daily News - Sept 9, 2005
Update posted on Sep 9, 2005 - 11:13AM 
Two Presque Isle teenagers, who were accused of cutting, beating and stabbing a dog to death in a case that drew global attention, pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of animal cruelty and theft by unauthorized taking.

Benjamin Benedict, 16, was sentenced in 2nd District Court immediately for his role in the crime, a misdemeanor.

The sentencing of Joshua Dunn, 17, was delayed until Aug. 4, pending a diagnostic evaluation.

Another 17-year-old, also allegedly involved in the incident, was not a part of Thursday's hearing. His name has not been released.

Benedict and Dunn had not previously been identified. Their juvenile arraignments were open to the public, however, because both have been convicted of previous crimes.

Benedict will remain in the custody of the state Department of Corrections for an indeterminate amount of time until he is 21. He will never again be allowed to own, possess or be on any premises with animals.

Before the incident, he had been on juvenile probation stemming from an assault and theft charge last year. His probation was revoked Thursday.

Both have been held at the Mountain View Youth Center in Charleston since they were arrested.

The two teens were accused of entering a Presque Isle back yard on June 2 and luring a 4-year-old female mixed breed dog to a nearby bike path. The dog, named C.C., was later found dead on a path behind a local store.

Both teens appeared Thursday with their legs shackled before Judge David Griffiths.

During the hour-long session, Assistant District Attorney Carrie Linthicum summarized statements that Benedict made to Presque Isle police detectives after the incident.

Benedict told police the three teens were walking around town sometime after midnight when they came upon C.C. tied outside. She began barking at them.

One of the three untied the dog and the group led her to a bike path. Benedict told police they took turns punching and kicking the animal, which he described to police as being a "friendly" dog.

According to Linthicum, a necropsy conducted on C.C. by a local veterinarian uncovered "multiple lacerations" on the dog's face and head, with "at least 20" wounds on the body. The top of the dog's skull was soft to the touch, and the animal suffered a possible skull fracture. Its neck was lacerated so deeply that blood vessels were exposed. It had been stabbed in the chest, eyes and muzzle, and there were cuts on the dog's eyelids.

Benedict told police he hit the dog "at least three times" and "cut and stabbed the dog's throat two or three times."

Benedict was intoxicated at the time, according to police. He said "accumulated rage" motivated him to commit the crime and expressed remorse for his actions.

Benedict's parents spoke on behalf of their son, telling the judge he was remorseful and that they wanted him to receive counseling.

Griffiths asked the teen to tell him in his own words what he had done to the dog, but Benedict refused. He told the judge the police report was "pretty much right," later noting that he was "pretty intoxicated" during the incident and could not remember much of what happened.

"I'm admitting to the crime," he said.

In contrast, Dunn recounted in detail what happened on that night when probed by Griffiths.

He said that he had some "built up anxiety and needed to release it somewhere." He said he had consumed an "extreme amount of alcohol" and smoked marijuana before the incident. He said the dog was tied to a tree during the attack, which he speculated lasted about 10 minutes.

"I hit it, I kicked it, I impaled it," he told the judge.

Dunn told the judge he could not give "a reasonable explanation" as to why he tortured the animal.

He also expressed remorse, turning around in his seat and looking directly at the dog's tearful owner as he apologized for his actions.

He said he had never before encountered the dog or its owner.

"It was a random attack," Dunn said.

The dog's owner shook her head, put her hands over her eyes and cried as she listened to graphic details about the crime. She said it was the first time she had heard the full story.

The owner told the judge that her young daughter was "extremely fearful for herself and for her other animals" as a result of the teens' actions.

"She can't comprehend why anyone would want to hurt an animal," she said, adding that her daughter went to live with her father at another home for a time because she was so afraid.

Dunn's parents were not present at Thursday's hearing.

Residents from around the nation and world flooded Aroostook County District Attorney Neale Adams' office with letters, faxes and phone calls after learning about the incident. Many urged the office to punish the teens "to the fullest extent of the law."

While Dunn's sentencing was delayed, Griffiths agreed with the prosecutor's recommendation that the teen refrain from keeping or being near animals in the future.
Source: Bangor News - July 8, 2005
Update posted on Jul 9, 2005 - 5:28AM 
Worldwide outrage at the brutal slaying of a dog in early June prompted state legislators last week to approve a bill reinstating a Maine law that makes aggravated cruelty to animals a felony. On Friday, Gov. John Baldacci signed the measure into law, which makes it effective immediately.

Those charged with the Class C crime now will face a felony instead of a misdemeanor charge. Because of the recent dog killing in Presque Isle and the overwhelming response to it, officials said it was imperative to correct the law as quickly as possible.

Aggravated cruelty to animals was a felony before the summer of 2004, but a legislative drafting error listed it as a misdemeanor for a year.

The mistake received nationwide attention in recent weeks after three teen boys allegedly beat and stabbed a dog to death.

Three Presque Isle boys, ages 17, 17 and 16, allegedly entered a back yard on June 2, stole a 4-year-old female mixed breed dog and took turns impaling the animal to death.

The district attorney's office charged the teens with aggravated animal cruelty but learned from the boys' lawyers that they could not charge them with a felony because that classification had been removed and not put back in state statutes.

"What we did was look at the statute itself to make sure the offense was still there," District Attorney Neale Adams said Tuesday. "When you look up the information, you only look to make sure you're alleging the crime properly. You don't really think it is going to disappear on you."

The policy board of the Maine Criminal Justice Information System made the error while recodifying Maine statutes for consistency and accurate citation, Brian MacMaster, chairman of the system's policy board, said Tuesday. Because of the enormity of the project, MacMaster said there were bound to be mistakes.

"We can't determine where it fell through the cracks, but this certainly was not intended," he said.

The mistake meant the district attorney's office had to charge the boys with a misdemeanor, cruelty to animals.

The Legislature discovered the mistake last year and passed a bill that was signed on June 2 and slated to go into effect in September.

Rep. Jeremy Fischer, D-Presque Isle, said officials could not make the change immediate because other pieces of legislation were included in the bill, and "we didn't think we could get a two-thirds vote to make it effective immediately."

Less than 24 hours after the governor signed the bill, the Presque Isle dog was found dead along the city bike path.

People from all over the world have sent letters and faxes and made phone calls to the district attorney and governor's offices expressing outrage over the crime and demanding the teens be punished to the "fullest extent of the law."

Adams said the matter could be worse: If the individuals were adults, the most they could get for a misdemeanor is 364 days in custody.

"As juveniles, they can get a sentence as long as a period of time to their 21st birthdays," he said. "And whether it's a misdemeanor or a felony, in the juvenile system the options for a penalty are the same."

The district attorney hopes that he won't have to use the corrected law anytime soon.

"As a practical matter, these kinds of cases are exceedingly rare," Adams said. "If this was the kind of thing happening every day, then absolutely we'd want to see it fixed as quickly as possible. But I hope not to see a case like this again ever, let alone by September."

In a related matter, the area's state humane agent responded to criticism from the slain dog's owner that statements she made at a memorial service Friday for the dog were out of line.

Jennifer Howlett, state humane agent, said the dog "was made a victim by being chained up for so many years of its life," which led the owner to say she felt she was being blamed for her dog's death.

Howlett said Tuesday that her statements were misconstrued.

"I wasn't saying the dog was abused, but there were issues," she said. "This dog was made a victim - it was left outside unattended. If the dog wasn't outside, it wouldn't have been killed. It would have been somebody else's dog, no doubt, but anyone's dog left outside that night had the potential of being killed."

Howlett said she wanted people to train their dogs so they could come into the home and be part of the family.

"Had it been anybody else's dog that had been left tied out in the middle of the night, I would have said the same thing," she said.
Source: Bangor Daily News - June 22, 2005
Update posted on Jun 23, 2005 - 1:17PM 
The teens are now facing misdemeanors. Evidently the state legislature was revamping the statutes this year and accidentally neglected to maintain the felony status of aggravated cruelty to animals. As a result, the teens can only be charged with misdemeanors. The felony provision will go back into effect in September, but won't be retroactive.

The DA's hands are tied here, so we are requesting that rather than writing to them, you write a letter to the legislators in Maine who let this situation fall through the cracks. This oversignt is inexcusable, and misdemeanor counts simply do not fit the crime that was committed.

Governor and Other State Officials
Governor: John E. Baldacci
Office of the Governor
1 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333-0001
Phone: (207) 287-3531
TTY: (207) 287-6548
Email: governor@maine.gov

Attorney General: G. Steven Rowe
6 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333
Phone: (207) 626-8800
TTY: (207) 626-8865

Secretary of State: Matthew Dunlap
The Office of the Secretary
148 State House Station
Augusta, Maine 04333
Phone: (207) 626-8400
Email: sos.office@maine.gov

State Treasurer: David Lemoine
39 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333-0039
(207) 624-7477
Email: state.treasurer@maine.gov
State Representatives & Senators
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U.S. Representatives and Senators
Senator Susan Collins, Republican
172 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
(202) 224-2523
Email Senator@Collins.senate.gov

Senator Olympia Snowe, Republican
154 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-1903
(202) 224-5344
Email olympia@snowe.senate.gov

Representative Thomas H. Allen, Democrat
U.S. House of Representatives
1717 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
(202) 225-6116
Email rep.tomallen@mail.house.gov

Representative Michael Michaud, Democrat
U.S. House of Representatives
437 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
(202) 225-6306
Email rep.mikemichaud@mail.house.gov
Update posted on Jun 15, 2005 - 7:19AM 

References

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