PRINCETON – An examination of a puppy that was killed Jan. 9 outside a Bluewell apartment complex shows that it was ill, but it did not have signs of drinking anything toxic, according to a report the investigating officer received Thursday.

Two men, Justin McKinley Mitchelson, 31 and John Michael Wimmer, 25, were arrested Jan. 9 after Wimmer killed a puppy belonging to Mitchelson. Both men were charged with felony animal cruelty, which carries a possible sentence of one to five years in prison. The case started when a woman picking up children at Bluewell Elementary School saw the puppy being beaten outside the neighboring Kinser Apartments complex.

Mercer County animal control officers took the puppy's remains Jan. 10 to Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va. where a veterinarian examined it.

Senior Trooper D.B. Whited of the West Virginia State Police Princeton detachment said he received a necropsy report Thursday from veterinarian Dr. Phil Sponenberg.

"The necropsy was performed Jan. 10 when they received the puppy," Whited said. "According to the necropsy report, the puppy had no signs of toxicity that would confirm any kind of drinking of Lysol or anything that was reported by the defendants. The puppy did show a final diagnosis; it had pneumonia, a ringworms infestation, and it did have some cardiac malfunction. No other findings were found as far as that goes."

Wimmer and Mitchelson said, after being advised of their Miranda Rights, that the puppy had been suffering because it consumed some Lysol, Whited testified during their preliminary hearings. The puppy was 8 weeks old. Mitchelson, the owner, said he had not named it, but Wimmer said its name was Athena. Mitchelson said during the interview that he asked Wimmer to kill it for him.

A veterinarian could have treated the ringworm problem and pneumonia, Whited said.

"The pneumonia and the ringworm is common in puppies, so yes, both treatable," Whited stated. "The cardiac symptoms, the cardiac malfunction, (Sponenberg) didn't go into detail. He just said it had some cardiac malfunction, and that may be relatable to the pneumonia."

The necropsy reported listed the puppy's death as "spontaneous" and did not give any details, he said.

According to Mitchelson and Wimmer, they took the puppy out to a stump and set it there. Wimmer then hit it with a log and the puppy’s back legs started quivering, Whited testified. He struck it a second time and the pup’s back legs were still quivering, Whited testified at the preliminary hearings. The puppy fell off the stump and Wimmer hit it a third time. A witness said the puppy was struck more than three times.

The puppy’s body was found on a small slope about 10 feet from the stump, Whited said.

Attorneys representing Wimmer and Mitchelson both said their clients had limited financial means, did not know they could have called animal control officers for help, tried to end the animal's suffering and did not try to hide their actions.

Whited said the investigation was continuing, and that he hoped to see the case presented to the February 2020 Mercer County Grand Jury.

Wimmer and Mitchelson are being held at the Southern Regional Jail in lieu of $10,000 cash-only bonds.

Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com

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