Who, age What Where When Last Known Address
Arthur J. Menichini, 43 shot, killed dog while walking his mother's dog

Pittston Township, PA

Luzerne County

April 23, 2009  
Type of Crime Other Crimes #/Type of animal(s) involved Case Status Next Court Date /Courthouse
Misdemeanor disorderly conduct 1 German shepherd Not Guilty Luzerne County Court

An attorney for a Pittston Township man charged with animal cruelty has filed a motion in Luzerne County Court asking a judge to dismiss the misdemeanor charge.

Arthur J. Menichini was charged with animal cruelty on June 18th for shooting and killing a German shepherd while walking his mother's beagle-mix dog outside Rear 164 Oak St. He claimed the dog attacked and he shot in self-defense.

He was charged with three counts of animal cruelty and one count of disorderly conduct. All the charges, except one count of animal cruelty, were dropped after a preliminary hearing.

Menichini's attorney John Terrana filed a motion asking the court to dismiss the final count, saying Menichini was within his legal right to defend himself and his mother's dog from a vicious dog and the charges violate Menichini's constitutional rights.

The dog that was killed was dangerous, has a history of attacking and was not properly leashed on the owner's property, Terrana argued.

Luzerne County Judge David Lupas ordered the prosecution to file briefs in response to the motion.

Update 12/8/09: Animal rights activists demonstrated outside the Luzerne County Courthouse on Monday morning to raise awareness about the case of a man accused of illegally shooting a German shepherd to death on June 18th in Pittston Township.

Arthur J. Menichini, 43, was making his initial appearance in county court on Monday on charges of animal cruelty and disorderly conduct. He pleaded not guilty.

"What he did was wrong," said Denise Kumor, of Tracey's Hope Hospice Care Program and Rescue for Domestic Animals, which organized the protest. "He should not have discharged a gun at that dog, especially not in a residential area."

Menichini, who is licensed to carry a concealed firearm, shot and killed the dog while walking his mother's much smaller beagle-mix dog outside Rear 164 Oak St. He claims the dog got loose from its property and attacked, so he shot in self-defense.

Menichini's case will stand trial next month after a judge on Monday did not grant his request to dismiss the charges.

Menichini, of Wall Street, asked to dismiss the charges, saying that he did not commit any crimes when he shot a dog owned by Marianne Zelonis when he was walking his mother's dog in April.

The hearing brought several people to the courthouse in Monday, silently protesting and holding signs that said "dog murderer" and asking for justice to be served for the dog, Kiera.

Denise Kumor, owner of Pet Services by Denise and Tracey's Hope, a hospice program for pets, advertised on her Web site that those in support of Kiera attend the protest to "stand in justice for Kiera" and that supporters need to "stand together and make Kiera's shooter pay for what he did."

Kumor said representatives from animal rights groups from Delaware and Maryland were present Monday, as well as the committee associated with Tracey's Hope. "This really disturbed me because of him using a gun," Kumor said. "He took the law into his own hands and shot the dog. ...This is something we're not gonna let go."

Menichini told police he shot the dog after it charged at him and his mother's dog, Coco, a beagle mix. Menichini said the German shepherd had previously attacked Coco, and that he shot the dog once. After seeing the dog in pain, Menichini fired another round from his gun, which he has a licensed permit to carry, killing the canine.

Menichini's attorney, John Terrana said Zelonis should not have been permitted to allow her dog to run loose, and that there is no evidence that Menichini acted criminally.

Assistant District Attorney Shannon Crake said it's up to a judge or jury to make the decision on whether Menichini committed a crime. Crake said neither Menichini nor the dog he was walking displayed any fresh wounds; that Menichini expressed his displeasure with the German shepherd earlier in the day; no other neighbors expressed any concerns; and that prosecutors presented enough evidence to charge Menichini.

County Judge Chester Muroski said Menichini will be scheduled for a bench trial - a trial before a judge only - in January.

Update 3/17/10: Attorneys prosecuting Menichini's case say the accused should not be allowed to show images of the injured dog at an upcoming trial.

Assistant District Attorney Shannon Crake and District Attorney Jackie Musto Carroll filed court papers Tuesday stating that pictures of the injured dog should not be allowed because a defense attorney cannot prove that the dog that was shot and killed caused the injuries.

Crake said in court papers that it is alleged that Coco suffered serious wounds to the abdomen in an attack by Kiera 13 days earlier. Crake said defense attorney John Terrana's evidence that Kiera attacked Coco is "mere speculation and conjecture" and that the wounds Coco suffered cannot be attributed to Kiera, a German shepherd. Crake said photos of the injured Coco are "inflammatory and have no evidentiary value" and therefore should not be permitted at a yet-to-be-scheduled trial.

Update 3/17/10: A Luzerne County jury was selected Wednesday to hear the animal cruelty case against Menichini who prosecutors say shot and killed a dog that belonged to his mother's neighbor.

A jury of 10 men and four women will hear Menichini's trial in the April 23rd, 2009 shooting death of Kiera, a German shepherd, owned by Marianne Zelonis.

"(Menichini) discharged a firearm and killed Marianne Zelonis' dog," Assistant District Attorney Shannon Crake said in her opening statement. "(Menichini) had the motive, the opportunity and the means to commit these acts."

Menichini's attorney, John Terrana, said his client is not on trial for murder, and that the incident was investigated as a murder. "(Menichini) said he shot the dog," Terrana said. "That's what got the ball rolling" and charges brought against his client, he said.

Crake said Menichini fired two shots to kill the dog, because he disliked Kiera and because Menichini alleged Kiera attacked his mother's beagle mix, Coco. Crake said that when testimony begins this morning, jurors will hear about how Zelonis' son put Kiera out to play in the family's fenced-in yard and what it was like for Zelonis to come home from work to find her dog dead. Crake said neighbors will testify they saw Kiera in the fenced-in yard, and that Menichini said just a few hours before the dog was shot that he disliked the German shepherd.

But Terrana said there are dog laws that allow people to legally kill certain dogs that are "pursuing and wounding any domestic animal." He said Kiera attacked Coco on more than three occasions, resulting in more than $3,000 in veterinarian bills. Terrana said jurors will be shown numerous photos of Coco's injuries, and that the only reason Menichini shot the dog twice is because it was suffering. "This whole case is a travesty," Terrana said. "It's a waste of time and that's what you're going to see," he told jurors.

Luzerne County Judge David Lupas, who is presiding over the trial, denied Crake's request to exclude photos of Coco at the trial. Crake claimed the photos were "inflammatory," but Lupas said the photos will be allowed to be shown to the jury.

Lupas also denied Terrana's request to have Zelonis supporters sitting in the courtroom remove purple ribbons worn in support of Kiera. Terrana said jurors would surely notice the ribbons, thereby prejudicing the jury.

Kiera, a German shepherd. Crake said photos of the injured Coco are "inflammatory and have no evidentiary value" and therefore should not be permitted at a yet-to-be-scheduled trial.

Update 3/17/10: Menichini was found not guilty Friday of a cruelty to animals charge in the shooting and killing of a 3-year-old German shepherd last year after a jury of nine men and three women deliberated for nearly two hours.

"I'm relieved," he said after hearing the verdict. "The jury finally heard our side."

Menichini testified Thursday that the German shepherd, Kiera, attacked Coco on at least three occasions, and had charged at his young son on another occasion. He said he had no other choice than to fire his .22-caliber semiautomatic handgun.

"I'm very, very disappointed," Zelonis said Friday, adding that she wasn't surprised Menichini was found not guilty because a certain state dog law says it's legal to shoot a domesticated animal that is attacking another. "And that's scary," Zelonis said. Zelonis said that personally she would never shoot an animal and believed Menichini was found not guilty on a "technicality." "He has to live with himself," Zelonis said. "I'm afraid it may send a message to (people) to take care of the problem yourself."

Zelonis also testified Thursday, saying she always kept a watchful eye on her German shepherd. She testified the three times Coco was attacked, Coco had come into her yard, which is adjacent to Menichini's. Zelonis testified her dog got along with neighbors, other dogs in the neighborhood and children. She said Kiera was trained in obedience and K-9 Good Citizen and almost as a therapy dog. Zelonis said she came home from work on April 23rd to find Kiera lying in her neighbor's yard. She shook the German shepherd, thinking it was sleeping, but the bullet in Kiera's head had already claimed the dog's life.

Menichini said that since he was originally charged he has faced ridicule and feels his reputation has been defamed "in a very big way."

His attorney, John Terrana, said he is pleased with the outcome of his first criminal case, as he normally handles civil matters. "We're more than relieved and happy and grateful," Terrana said, adding Menichini could have faced a year in jail.

Menichini said he hired Terrana because he has been a longtime family friend, and he felt no one could have handled the case better. Terrana did the work on a pro bono, or free, basis, Menichini said.

Denise Kumor, owner of Pet Services by Denise and Tracey's Hope, a hospice program for pets, said Friday that she, her organization and Zelonis will continue to fight for animal rights. "This is just the beginning ... of a scary situation," Kumor said. She said she is being sued by Menichini in a libel suit recently filed in Luzerne County Court in connection with an e-mail newsletter. The suit, which seeks $50,000 in damages, says Kumor, who is represented by attorney Lisa Welkey, had no knowledge to support the e-mail and never made any attempt to discuss the facts of the case. The suit stems from a May 26 e-mail allegedly sent by Kumor that made an accusation against Menichini and encouraged readers to send letters of support to Pittston Township police.

Menichini says in the suit that the letter is defamatory and libelous, and that Kumor published the letter "intentionally, maliciously and with a reckless disregard for the truth."

Update 4/23/10: The civil suit filed by Arthur J. Menichini vs Denise D. Kumor was discontinued withou prejudice.

Reference:

The Citizen's Voice The Times Leader
The Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas