As I wrote on this blog back in 2014, one of the most horrific and disturbing animal abuse cases I’d ever written about was that of a young Pit Bull called Puppy Doe. Four years later, this still remains true. And now, finally, there may soon be justice for this tortured puppy. The trial of her alleged abuser, Radoslaw Czerkawski, began today in Dedham, Mass.
If you’re unfamiliar with the sad tale of Puppy Doe, here’s her story. When she was known as Kiya, her original owners gave her away via a Craigslist ad when their landlord decided to ban Pit Bulls due to high insurance rates. Kiya eventually ended up with Radoslaw Czerkawski, who allegedly starved her and inflicted what the Boston Herald called “medieval-style torture” on the helpless dog. This monster systematically pulled her joints apart, split her tongue in half, stabbed her in the eye and burned her.
Czerkawski, a Polish national living illegally in the U.S. on an expired work visa, was the live-in caretaker for an elderly woman with dementia in Quincy, Mass. When the woman died in late August 2013, Czerkawski dumped Kiya in a nearby wooded area. She was discovered by someone who thought she’d been hit by a car, because her injuries were so severe.
Tragically, Kiya had to be euthanized due to the extent of her injuries. Her final hours were spent being pampered and loved by the staff of the Animal Rescue League of Boston.
Two months later, Czerkawski was arrested after Kiya’s blood splatter was found in the elderly woman’s home. His cell phone records indicated he had bought Kiya from her second owner via a Craigslist ad. He was charged with 12 counts of animal cruelty along with a larceny charge for stealing more than $100,000 from the elderly woman. His trial was originally set for early 2015, but has been repeatedly postponed.
In the meantime, thanks to poor “Puppy Doe,” animal cruelty laws have been strengthened in Massachusetts. The maximum sentence for a first offense, which used to be five years, increased to seven years. Subsequent offenses have a maximum sentence of 10 years. The fines were raised from $2,500 for a first offense to $5,000, and up to $10,000 for subsequent offenses.
“It’s almost like we’re in this period in animal cruelty that’s ‘before Puppy Doe’ and ‘after Puppy Doe,’” Rob Halpin, spokesman for MSPCA-Angell, told the Boston Globe in 2014. “Puppy Doe made a large and permanent crack in the status quo.”
Potential Jurors Asked About Their Opinions of Pit Bulls
Four and a half years after “Puppy Doe” was tortured, selection of the 16-member jury for Czerkawski’s trial in the Norfolk Superior Court began Tuesday. To keep protesters away during the jury selection and trial, a 500-foot buffer zone patrolled by police has been set up around the courthouse. Six Puppy Doe supporters, including Deanna Terminiello, director of the group Pawsitively Puppy Doe, were allowed to sit in the courtroom.
“We don’t want to cause any problems. We do want to follow the judge’s orders. We don’t want to potentially cause a mistrial in this case,” Terminiello told WCVB.
The first day of jury selection, which the Boston Herald called an “arduous” process, 52 prospective jurors were dismissed because they’d either already formed an opinion of the case, were biased about it or had seen pretrial publicity regarding Puppy Doe.
The potential jurors were apparently asked to say something good about Pit Bulls, which really bothers me — did Kiya’s breed have anything to do with the fact that she was tortured? Yet Kiya would probably be alive today if her original owners didn’t have to give her up because of their landlord’s high insurance rates. As I wrote for Care2.com, it’s a sad and very unfair fact that most major insurance companies won’t provide home insurance to owners of Pit Bulls (or Rottweilers, Dobermans or other “dangerous” breeds).
The jury selection process ended Wednesday. “Two of the seven selected jurors own dogs — one of them a puppy,” the Boston Herald reports. “And while remaining silent when afforded the chance to volunteer something good about pit bulls, four later told the court they blame bad owners for bad canine behavior.”
During the selection process, the Boston Herald reports that Czerkawski dozed off, stared into space and barely glanced at the jury pool when told to do so by his attorney, Larry Tipton.
Trial to Last 3 Weeks
The trial is expected to last about three weeks. Opening arguments began this morning, according to the Norfolk District Attorney’s Office. About 50 witnesses are expected to take the stand, including police officers, animal control officers and shelter staff.
“I think it’s going to be horrendous to listen to,” Terminiello told the Boston Herald. “We’ve all been so extremely emotional. It’s caused mental distress for so many. I can’t even tell you how many people have gone through depression and anxiety because of this case, including myself.”
The maximum sentence Czerkawski is facing is 55 years in prison. As Terminiello told WCVB, “You know, it still doesn’t bring her back, but we do get some justice.”