Judge shuns prison in dog torture, killing case

Joseph Nelson

A Mesa County judge today shunned a prison sentence in the case of a man who admitted torturing and killing his mother’s dog, saying prison would be the “least impactful” result in the high-profile animal cruelty case of Joseph Nelson.

District Judge Richard Gurley questioned whether Nelson could attain meaningful substance abuse or mental health treatment if he were sent to prison before being released back to the community. Nelson, 18, faced a maximum possible three-year term in prison after pleading guilty to aggravated cruelty to animals.

“I don’t think that’s in the best interest of the community,” Gurley said.

Gurley instead sentenced Nelson to serve 18 months in Mesa County Community Corrections, in addition to five years of supervised probation during which Nelson must complete drug and mental-heath treatment. The judge ordered Nelson restrained from all contact with domesticated animals for five years.

Nelson was arrested in connection with the Aug. 14, 2011, death of his mother’s mixed-breed dog, De Mayo. A passerby found De Mayo handing by its leash from the Orchard Mesa pedestrian bridge. The dog’s internal organs had been cut out and an eyeball was missing.

Gurley on Wednesday said he was disturbed by Nelson’s “emotionless” attitude about the episode, as evidenced during a pre-sentence interview. Prosecutors have said Nelson told the interviewer he was high on methamphetamine during the incident and wasn’t “using his brain.”

The judge on June 22 rejected a prior plea agreement in the case calling for probation and no incarceration, saying the plea agreement didn’t give him “enough options.”

Read the full story in Thursday’s Daily Sentinel.


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