Prison is possible in new dog-torture plea
A Grand Junction man Thursday admitted to torturing and killing his mother’s dog after pleading guilty for the second time in a little less than five months.
Joseph Nelson, 18, pleaded guilty to a lone count of aggravated cruelty to animals under a plea agreement that leaves sentencing open to the discretion of District Judge Richard Gurley. The deal allows Gurley to issue a maximum prison sentence of up to three years, probation or a sentence to Mesa County Community Corrections.
Gurley on June 22 rejected the first plea agreement in the case. The deal called for Nelson to be sentenced to probation for the Aug. 14, 2011, killing of his mother’s mixed-breed dog, De Mayo. The judge said the initial plea deal didn’t give him “enough options.”
A passerby found De Mayo hanging by its leash from the Orchard Mesa pedestrian bridge. The dog’s internal organs were cut out and an eyeball was missing.
A witness told police that Nelson, in a rage after being contacted by police on an unrelated matter, started swinging the dog by its leash and slammed it into a backyard shed at his mother’s home “10 to 12 times,” before kicking the dog and throwing a bicycle on top of it, according to an arrest affidavit.
The affidavit said Nelson’s mother told police her son was heavily involved with methamphetamine.
Deputy District Attorney Jason Conley said during the June 22 hearing that Nelson told probation officials during a pre-sentence investigation he was intoxicated at the time of the incident, and that “hurting the dog seemed like the right thing to do.”
Nelson also told the interviewer he wasn’t “using his brain as much as he should have been,” Conley said.
Nelson has three prior juvenile cases, which are not public record. He was 17 at the time of the dog’s death, while District Attorney Pete Hautzinger in January moved to file adult charges in the case. Nelson is scheduled for sentencing Oct. 5.