|Who, age||What||Where||When||Last Known Address|
|Ronald Munerlyn, 48||dogfighting - 26 dogs seized||
|October 16, 2007|
|Type of Crime||Other Crimes||#/Type of animal(s) involved||Case Status||Next Court Date /Courthouse|
|Misdemeanor||26 pitbulls||Convicted||Harris County Courthouse|
Two dog-fighting rings, a bloody carpet, a treadmill and 26 pit bull dogs are evidence Harris County prosecutors say prove that a Houston man was training dogs with the intent to fight them.
A trial began today against Ronald Munerlyn, who has been charged with misdemeanor dogfighting.
A jury of five women and one man is hearing evidence in this case, in which Harris County prosecutors will try to win a conviction in a dogfighting trial using paraphernalia rather than witness testimony of a dogfight. The paraphernalia was found at a location where the dogs were seized.
Lt. Mark Timmers, an animal cruelty investigator with Harris County Precinct 6 Constable's Office and the Houston Humane Society, testified about the conditions of the property where the dogs were kept. Dogs were tethered with heavy chains and kept at a distance from each other where they could see each other but not come into contact. He said this arrangement was a method of building aggression in the dogs. He also testified that a dog training treadmill was found on the property.
"Why does that set off red flags to you," asked prosecutor Eric Bily. "It made it obvious that there was criminal activity, dogfighting going on," Timmers said
Update 10/17/07: Minutes after being found guilty of animal cruelty and dogfighting, the defendant admitted that he trained his pitbulls to fight and kept them in deplorable conditions.
Photo courtesy of Karen Warren/The Houston Chronicle Ronald Munerlyn listens to testimony at the Harris County Courthouse.
Ronald Munerlyn, 48, during questioning by Harris County prosecutor Eric Bily, told jurors during the punishment phase that he had taken his dogs to "school" to see if they had "game." He said he had been offered $40,000 for one such dog, "Demon, but he declined to sell.
"It's the same as a boxer, you have to practice. I did it for sport, pleasure. The schooling is waking them up," he told the court. "You bring them together for about three or four minutes, then you take them home mad."
"You pick through the litter; the weaker puppies you sell out," Munerlyn said.
Munerlyn was sentenced by County Criminal Court Judge Margaret S. Harris to 28 days in jail, two years probation and 80 hours of community service. He will also have to pay $4,700 in restitution to the Houston Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for care of the confiscated pit bulls that had to be euthanized.
He could have been sentenced to up to a year in jail and up to a $4,000 fine.
Harris County Assistant District Attorney Belinda Smith said she was surprised by his admission on the stand, calling it a rarity.
"It was a vindication," said Smith. "For two days the SPCA was attacked, the Houston Humane Society was attacked, the vet was attacked just to find out everything they were saying was the truth. Everything adds up."
Munerlyn did not admit to fighting dogs on the property where the dogs were seized. He said dogs fought elsewhere.
He was given a two-day credit on his jail sentence for his admission. However, in sentencing Harris addressed his dishonesty during the trial. "You took the witness stand under oath and lied to all of us," said Harris. "I found your testimony that you fought the animals for pleasure, your words, horrifying. You sent them into battle knowing they would be harmed."
Juror Velma Hugh said the numerous pictures shown at trial helped them reach their verdicts.
"It was so many scars,
you couldn't deny it. He should have taken them to the vet," said Hugh.
"He seems like a decent person. He just needs to realize this is not good."
Photo courtesy of Karen Warren/The Houston Chronicle Charles Jantzen, left, chief cruelty investigator of the Houston SPCA, helps prosecutor Eric Bily look for blood splatter evidence in a portable dogfighting ring at the Harris County Courthouse. The ring was used as evidence in the trial of Ronald Munerlyn.
Update 10/18/07: Minutes after being found guilty of animal cruelty and dogfighting, Munerlyn apologized to the jury for his actions before being sentenced by Harris County Criminal Court Judge Margaret S. Harris to 28 days in jail, two years' probation and 80 hours of community service.
He will also have to pay $4,700 in restitution to the Houston Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for care of the confiscated pit bulls that had to be euthanized.
Reference The Houston Chronicle