Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

May 1, 2013

Puppy deaths probed

Authorities ‘collecting evidence, conducting criminal investigation’

PRINCETON — An investigation into how approximately 10 pit bull puppies died and who dumped them outside the city of Bluefield was underway Tuesday in Mercer County.

The case began Sunday after a property owner in the Grassy Branch area saw bags being thrown April 26 from a vehicle. He later called Mercer County 911 after noticing an odor, Animal Control Officer Tracy Monninger said.

 Another animal control officer, Elizabeth Morehead, went to the scene and found at least 10 decomposing pit bull pups stuffed into bags. Even though the remains were decayed, the shape of their heads could identify their breed, Monninger stated.

Assistant Prosecuting Attorney John McGinnis told the Bluefield Daily Telegraph on Tuesday that the search for evidence is in its early stages. The canines’ remains were being recovered so they could be prepared for examination.

“We are conducting a criminal investigation on the death of those puppies,” McGinnis said. “At this point we’re still in the stage of collecting evidence.”

When the remains are collected, they will be examined.

“I know they are having a necropsy done to determine the cause of death,” Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ash said. “Apparently, the decomposition was such that the layman couldn’t determine (the cause of death.)”

A necropsy is an autopsy performed on an animal. Investigators had not determined Monday who would conduct this examination, McGinnis stated. The investigation is being carried out by the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department in conjunction with Mercer County animal control officers.

“We have to preserve evidence. It’s a crime scene and we treat it just like we would any crime scene,” McGinnis said of the area where the pups were discovered. He declined to describe the vehicle the pups were allegedly dumped from at this time.

Exactly what type of charges the person or persons involved could face is “speculation” this early in the investigation, McGinnis said. If an examination shows that the puppies were killed, the person who killed and dumped them could face felony cruelty to animal charges. A person convicted on this charge could potentially face one to five years in a state penitentiary.

McGinnis commended the work of Sgt. S.J. Cary with the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department and Mercer County’s animal control officers.

“They really worked hard on this today and they’re the reason we’re moving forward with this,” he said.

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