Monday, August 2, 2010

JUSTICE FOR BUDDY'S DEATH: Denver takes Buddy's cruel death seriously

Mimi's note: I pray that there will come a day when dogs like Buddy won't need justice. I pray for a day when dogs like Buddy live complete and full lives with the people who love them - unharmed by the evil actions of others.

By Howard Pankratz  The Denver Post  The man who dragged a stolen dog to death at the Colorado National Monument in December was sentenced today to the maximum prison term of three years.

U.S. District Judge Philip Brimmer told Steven Clay Romero, 38, that his actions were shocking.

"This crime is characterized by premeditation," said Brimmer. "He took the dog to a national monument. He claims he strangled the dog first and then to make sure the dog was dead he dragged it behind his pickup. It is particularly shocking to tie a dog behind a pickup and drag it to death."

Brimmer told Romero that his story that he first strangled the dog — a German shepherd mix named Buddy — didn't make sense because evidence showed that Buddy was "alive and trying to keep up with Romero's pickup" as Romero drove through the monument.

"Mr. Romero said he wasn't thinking at the time," Brimmer said. "Evidence is that he was thinking but not thinking appropriately."

Buddy belonged to Sacha and Joe Leber of Delta. On Dec. 29, while the family was at a Delta restaurant, Buddy was stolen from the back of their pickup.

"We took Buddy everywhere," said Sacha Leber today by phone. "I was shocked, sad and angry when we realized he was gone."

The family adopted Buddy from the Delta County Humane Society five years prior to his death.

In the years that followed, Buddy became a playmate for the Leber's three children - Isaac, Owen and Alyssa.

"Buddy was the most kind, gentle, respectful dog, especially with our children," Leber said.

Leber said she and her husband rarely think of Romero, although they do have Buddy's ashes in an urn. But she said she is relieved his case is done and Romero will have time to sit in a cell and "realize what happened."

The crime gained worldwide attention. More than 260,000 people have joined the "Demand Justice for Buddy" Facebook group.

Gary M. Sherman was one of the administrators of the Facebook group. The Colorado Springs resident drove to Denver with 11 binders (500 pages each) filled with signatures from people in more than 100 countries seeking "justice" for Buddy. He gave the binders to assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Heldmyer.

Asked why he thought so many people became members of the Facebook group and signed the petitions, Sherman said "it was the nature of the crime."

"The chain of events was so horrific. The complete lack of compassion. It resonated with people all over the world," Sherman said. "This was a dog that was doing nothing more than sitting in the back of a pickup truck."

During the sentencing, Heldmyer characterized Romero as an extreme danger. She noted that his plea of guilty to aggravated animal cruelty was Romero's 11th felony conviction and that his crimes were escalating.

"This kind of conduct is a danger to the community - he is a very dangerous man," Heldmyer said in court.

The prosecutor said that two days before Romero killed Buddy, he had threatened to kill two other dogs.

Heldmyer said Romero had gotten into a money dispute with the dog's owner and told her that if she didn't pay up, he would start by killing her two dogs and then kill her. The prosecutor said the threats were laced with profanities.

Brimmer said that in imposing the maximum sentence possible, he was taking into consideration Romero's 11 felony convictions.

"When you get to Number 11, you should assume you will be given the maximum sentence. A message needs to be sent," said Brimmer. "That message is: Enough is enough."

Brimmer also ordered Romero to pay a $500 fine and $343.68 in restitution to the dog's owners. Romero is to have 12 months of supervised release after he gets out of prison.

Romero was apologetic in court.

"Your honor and the people of the State of Colorado, I'm sorry for what happened. I'm sorry it happened but I can't bring the dog back. At the time, I wasn't thinking."

Romero said that through the years, he had never had someone to help him and he now hoped for such help.

Buddy was found dead in the early hours of Dec. 30 by the chief of maintenance at the monument with a rope around his neck.

Tracks left in the snow showed that Buddy initially walked, then ran and eventually was dragged when he couldn't keep up with Romero's vehicle.

Buddy was eventually dumped and left laying in the snow.

Romero's sister, Marie Lockhart, allegedly stole Buddy and another dog from the bed of the Leber's pickup.

Lockhart took the two dogs to her home and there Buddy purportedly killed Lockhart's cat. She then told her brother to get rid of Buddy.

Lockhart is charged with being an accessory after the fact to aggravated animal cruelty for her alleged attempt to cover up the dog's death.

About a half dozen people were wearing "Demand Justice for Buddy" T-shirts in the courtroom.

Dick Dahl, from Durango, said he attended Romero's court sessions in both Grand Junction and in Denver.

"I do animal rescue. My animals are my children. It was just horrendous," Dahl said of Buddy's death.

Shauna Strah, of Colorado Springs, said when she first heard about Buddy's death "I was upset and sad that someone could kill an animal."

Renee Yarbrough of Aurora said she attended the sentencing hearing because "animals don't have a voice.

"We have to stand up for them."
National Canine Cancer Foundation


3 doxies said...

I don't even know where to begin with this. I followed the story and was sickened and angry about what had happened to Buddy.
Although this crime has give Romero a still penalty for his is disturbing that nothing was done before Buddy. He had 11 priors.
I also have a problem with his statement as far as him not being able to get the help he needed....hello, get it yourself if you think you need it and NOW the state is more than likely going to pay for his so needed help.
I despise that man more than words. I think he is sick but he knew what he was doing at the is so obvious.
Thank you Mimi for letting us know the outcome.
Allison...Puddles mum

George the Lad said...

I don't know want to say, it was hard to read it, how could he do such a thing, sick is not the work for it.
Jan... Georges mom

Mrs. JP said...

How to people sleep? I just can't even comprehend.....there are no words.

YD, sometimes with ♥Samantha and ♥June said...

I really don't know what to say. I am so upset right now. How can someone get so cruel?

♥I am Holly♥ said...

This is very hard to write because I am now crying after reading this. I remember signing the petition and thinking how horrible a crime this was and how any human could possible do something like this to an innocent dog. Since he is not able to think as stated, I would hope that he serves everyday of his sentence in a cell all by himself because he is definitely a cruel and evil being and capable of all kinds of evil acts. Thanks for writing about his. Lots of love, Debbie and Holly

Teri and the cats of Furrydance said...

Tears well up, still I thank you for letting us know how this all turned out. I fear for anyone, any animal that comes in contact with this man...he will not get rehabilitated I fear, just incarcerated. Buddy, we will never forget. I hope his family can heal, but they will forever feel his loss...

Sagira said...

I just don't understand some people. :(

Kari in WeHo said...

Glad to see Denver tries to help some dogs...

Don't forget, we've moved to

Benny and Lily said...

Hopefully thre inmates will do the same to him
Benny & Lily

houndstooth said...

I have followed this story for a while now, and I'm glad that he was finally convicted! There are a lot of things I'd like to say but can't. The sad truth is, monsters do exist, and they always seem to prey on the most innocent.

The Bumpass Hounds said...

Hey S&F,
Our dad was telling mom and us about this story this evening. Day read it on the CNN website. Even thou the monster got the maximum allowable it somehow seems inadequate to heal the wound. It's bad enough to be stolen, but then to be murdered in such a cruel and horrible way. In our minds we might be able to find forgiveness but probably not in our hearts.

Tweedles -- that's me said...

I hate that man
I hate him
i can't help it,, i just hate him.
i don't have any more words cause mt eyes are crying


Teddy Bear said...

What is wrong with some people?!

Teddy Bear

the booker man said...

there are some sick people in this world. what a sad, sad story. i am glad this man got the longest prison sentence he could get.

the booker man and asa's mama