18-year-old will be prosecuted as adult in killing of mom’s dog

Joseph Nelson

A Grand Junction teenager accused of mutilating a dog and hanging its carcass from a public bridge over the Colorado River will be prosecuted as an adult, the Mesa County District Attorney’s Office said Tuesday.

Joseph Nelson, 18, who appeared free on bond Tuesday before Magistrate Kevin Kennedy, was ordered to appear later this month before District Judge Thomas Deister for advisement on adult charges of aggravated cruelty to animals and being a minor in possession of alcohol.

District Attorney Pete Hautzinger said he had been “leaning strongly” toward pressing adult charges against Nelson, whose alleged crime happened when he was 17. Nelson turned 18 on Oct. 23, and he was arrested on a Grand Junction Police Department warrant seven days later.

“I wanted to give him and his lawyers every opportunity to present arguments in opposition to (juvenile direct file),” Hautzinger said, when asked about the delay since Nelson’s arrest.

Adult charges are justified because of the nature of the alleged crime and Nelson’s criminal history, Hautzinger said.

Public defender Megan Marlatt, Nelson’s attorney, told Kennedy she was “surprised” by the filing of adult charges.

“(Nelson) has been fully compliant while on bond,” Marlatt said.

Nelson is under the supervision of Mesa County Pre-Trial Services.

Nelson is suspected in the death of his mother’s 20-pound mix-breed dog, which was discovered Aug. 15 hanging by its leash from the pedestrian river bridge near Eagle Rim Park. The dog’s internal organs had been cut out, and an eyeball was missing, according to an arrest affidavit.

A friend of Nelson’s told police that Nelson became enraged after being contacted by Grand Junction police officers Aug. 14 in connection with an unrelated incident, the affidavit said.

Nelson swung his mother’s dog repeatedly by the leash, slamming it into a backyard shed some “10 to 12 times” before kicking it and throwing a bicycle on top of the dog, the affidavit said.


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