The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

November 9, 2012

Charges dismissed against Colebrook Township man accused of shooting dogs

Star Beacon

JEFFERSON — Animal cruelty charges against a Colebrook Township man were dismissed Thursday afternoon in Eastern County Court immediately prior to closing arguments in a two day trial, according to court records and attorneys involved in the case.

Walter Pace, 66, of Storey Road, was charged with two counts of needless killing/commiting act of cruelty to a companion animal after the alleged April 15 shooting of a seven month-old beagle and a five year old St. Bernard mix, according to court records and Ashtabula County Sheriff’s reports.

The two charges were first degree misdemeanors with the possibility of a six month jail term for each charge.

 The dogs had wandered away from their home, according to Linda and Steve Richards who owned the dogs. Sheriff’s reports indicate the dogs were shot on Mains Road.

Eastern Court Judge Robert S. Wynn filed a judgment entry Wednesday afternoon stating that the two amended complaints, regarding the animal charges, were missing the word “knowingly” which was necessary for prosecution.

The judgment entry also states that Wynn overruled a motion from the prosecution seeking the ability to verbally amend the state’s complaint.

Ashtabula County Assistant Prosecutor Bret Hartup said he would be looking into whether the charges can be refiled. He said he could not comment any further on the case.

Pace’s attorney, Leo J. Talikka, said the word “knowingly” was missing from the complaint and was an essential element to the case.

Talikka said he believes the case should be dismissed with prejudice (meaning the charges could not be refiled) because it would be double jeopardy since the trial had already commenced to closing arguments.

“He’s just happy it is over for the time being,” Talikka said of Pace.

Michael Dylan Brennan, an attorney representing the Richards family, sat through the case and was surprised by the ruling.

“Obviously the Richards are disappointed that the case was dismissed but they are still hopeful that something can be done by the prosecutor’s office,” he said.

“He still needs to be held accountable for what he admitted on the stand,” Brennan said. He said the family has not ruled out the possibility of a civil suit.