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Monday, Jul 18, 2005County: Travis
Alleged: Norris Cole
On July 18, Melissa Ortiz came home and said she found her neighbor, Norris Cole, 43, standing over her border collie in her backyard. Ortiz had chained her 4-year-old border collie, Orion, to a post in her backyard.
Ortiz knew Cole as the owner of a wedding business behind the subdivision where she lives, the Villages of Hidden Lake. The dog was bloody, but Ortiz, said she had no time to question Cole before he yelled at her to get out.
She ran to call police.
Cole emerged from the backyard and tossed a big black bag into the bed of his pickup, according to a police affidavit.
Travis County sheriff's deputies soon arrived. As Ortiz spoke to them, she saw the bag move.
Orion lifted his head and took his last breath, she said.
"Why'd you bag my dog?" Ortiz said she asked Cole. He told her and the deputies that he'd seen a strange man who had probably killed the dog wandering in the area, according to the affidavit.
According to Ortiz, Cole said he went to her house looking for the man and found the dog dead. He'd put Orion in the bag because he didn't want her to see the dog in that condition.
When deputies searched Cole's truck, they found a .22-caliber pistol with an additional barrel that looked like a silencer, Travis County sheriff's office spokesman Roger Wade said.
Cole was arrested and charged with criminal trespassing and cruelty to animals. He was released on $4,000 bail the next day. The case is under investigation.
In Texas, heinous cruelty to animals can be tried as a felony. The punishment is two years in jail, a $10,000 fine or both. Cesario Cadena, an animal control officer with the Pflugerville police said the department had not investigated an unusual number of missing or dead dogs in the area this year.
Wade confirmed that Cole, in a television interview, confessed to shooting the dog. He told a reporter that he got tired of the dog's barking, so he went to quiet it down. Cole said that when he went to unchain the dog, Orion got aggressive, and Cole said he shot him. Cole declined to comment for this article.
His lawyer, Jamie Balagia said, "Mr. Cole was under a tremendous amount of stress at the time and did something that goes against his reputation and his past. We've got him in counseling, and he wants to express his most sincere apologies to the whole community."
Balagia added that Cole's family had been receiving death threats and harassing e-mails since news of the case spread.
Balagia said it would be unethical for him to say whether Cole had confessed to the shooting. "We're not going to contest the case at all," he said.
Cole has lived with his family at the Plantation House, a sprawling six-bedroom, five-bathroom home, since 1993.
The Coles host weddings there, and the couple often knock on their neighbors' doors to ask them to quiet down during receptions and ceremonies, Ortiz and Anthony Mays said.
Mays, 26, who lives next door to Ortiz with his wife, Belinda, said he suspects that Cole took their 6-month-old pit bull, Alpha, in May. They had three barriers - a back fence, electric fence and kennel - so how could it get loose?
Residents say that Cole is out to protect his monetary interests: He has about three weddings a week, and prices on the house's Web site range from $3,000 to $4,000 per event. His neighbors say Cole may be upset that a subdivision has been built bordering what was once a lovely, quiet 5-acre oasis.
Mays and his wife have kept their new puppy, Deuce, in the house since Orion's shooting.
Toby Schroeder, lives a few doors down and says he, too, is concerned. Schroeder has been taking his Brittany spaniel, Rocky, to his girlfriend's house for days at a time since the incident.
Residents of the subdivision, Schroeder and Ortiz said, have all signed papers requiring them to keep their noise to a minimum because of the weddings.
Schroeder keeps watch over the neighborhood when he's at home, walking his dog at night.
Ortiz and her family often stay in South Austin because she's scared to be in the house. She plans to file a civil case against Cole.
Cole had not confessed to detectives, Wade said, buthe added, "All evidence points to the fact he did it."
- Austin American Statesman - July 31, 2005
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