D.A. considers felony animal cruelty among charges in Carbondale dog shooting

Otis would have turned 2 years old in March. Last week a 13-year-old boy is believed to have killed him using a rifle. He is due in Garfield County juvenile court Feb. 14.

The 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office is contemplating filing at least two felony charges against a 13-year-old boy suspected of shooting a dog to death last week near Carbondale, including animal cruelty.

The suspect, who lives in the Carbondale area, is due in Garfield County juvenile court Feb. 14, Deputy District Attorney Tony Hershey said Tuesday. The juvenile has been in the custody of the Grand Mesa Youth Services Center, a juvenile detention center in Grand Junction, since Pitkin County sheriff’s deputies arrested him Jan. 24. He will remain there until his scheduled court date, Hershey said.

“We want the public to know he’s in a secure location, and everyone who would be afraid shouldn’t be,” said the prosecutor. “Everyone should be assured that he is in a secure place, he is safe, and he is not a threat to himself or the community now.”

Next month’s hearing will include the District Attorney’s Office’s formal filing of charges as well as the suspect’s opportunity to address his release. Because it is a juvenile case, the suspect has no bond, Hershey said. The Public Defender’s Office is representing the juvenile, Hershey said.

The boy will not be charged as an adult, Hershey said. In Colorado, generally speaking juveniles can only be charged as an adult if they are at least 14 years old and are charged with class 1 or class 2 felonies, which carry penalties of eight to 24 years or life in prison.

The counts being considered by the District Attorney’s Office include juvenile in possession of a handgun, a class 2 misdemeanor; burglary, a class 3 felony; and cruelty to animals, a class 6 felony, Hershey said. Theft of a firearm is another count the DA’s Office is mulling.

“I would say the animal-cruelty statute does carry some mandatory counseling for juveniles,” Hershey said, adding that he does not plan to pursue jail time for the boy.

“People need to understand this is a juvenile matter,” he said. “It’s different than an adult matter, and there are certain restrictions on an ultimate punishment.

“It’s very sad, but he’s not going to prison, just so we are clear on that. There are potential things the Department of Youth Corrections could offer.”

Messages left with the suspect’s family were not returned this week. The Aspen Times has a policy to not publish the identity of juvenile suspects who are not charged as adults.

The same day as the teenager’s arrest, he allegedly left the Garfield County Courthouse where he was due on other charges. The boy left while his guardian was using the bathroom, confirmed Hershey, who noted the entire matter remains under investigation.

After the boy left the courthouse, it is believed that he broke into a home in the Glenwood Springs area, Hershey said. There, he allegedly stole at least one firearm before he hitched a ride to the Crystal River Valley area where he purportedly fired two shots near a 2-year-old yellow labrador retriever that was on private property.

The boy allegedly fired two shots from a trail near the home. The first shot, from a revolver, misfired. The second one, from a rifle with a scope, hit the chest of the dog, Otis, which then went inside the home on the property. The dog later died on the living room floor, where one of his owners found him. Another yellow lab on the property, Daisy, was not hurt, family members said.

Tom Friel, who lives in the 7 Oaks home with his wife, Kirsten Pamp-Friel, and their 7-year-old daughter, last week told The Aspen Times that a security camera recorded the incident.

Pamp-Friel said that her husband will “definitely” attend the February hearing. She said she had not decided whether she would be there.

“There’s part of me that doesn’t want to see his face, and there’s part of me that has some compassion,” she said. “He’s obviously from a troubled background. But it’s hard to wrap your head around this with compassion that is mixed with so much hurt and anger.”

Pamp-Friel said she also believed the boy took refuge at a friend’s house in her neighborhood after he shot Otis.

“We were told that he was arrested at that person’s house,” she said.

Pitkin County sheriff’s deputies made the arrest, but it was not related to the dog shooting, said Undersheriff Ron Ryan, who noted the boy was wanted on a failure-to-appear warrant stemming from his skipping his court appearance earlier that day.

Garfield County aided in the case, as well.

“There was great cooperation between Garfield and Pitkin County,” Hershey said. “Pitkin County did a particularly good job of finding him quickly and apprehending him.”

Garfield County will be the venue for the case, though some of the charges originated in Pitkin County, Hershey said, noting that the series of events began in Garfield and ended in Pitkin.