Brother and sister accused of stealing, torturing dog to death

8:03 PM, Jan 5, 2010   |    comments
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Delta Police say the dog named Buddy was stolen out of the back of Sacha and Joe Leber's pickup truck last week.

Police don't have a motive.

Melissa Lockhart, 32, from Fruita faces felony theft charges for taking Buddy and Max, a black Lab mix.

"We came out and we noticed our two dogs were out of the truck," Sacha Leber said.

The Lebers got Max back unharmed, but their German Shepherd-mix was found dead last Wednesday at Colorado National Monument.

A park maintenance worker found the dog dead with a rope tied around its neck. Investigators say Buddy was dragged behind a car for two miles before he died.

"Just to think he was put through something like that, it hurts really, really bad," Leber said.

Chief Deputy District Attorney in Denver Diane Balkin has seen the worst of the worst prosecuting animal cruelty cases, but this one, which she has no ties too, is hard to even comprehend.

"It just elicits this feeling in your heart, the animal had to feel pain," Balkin said.

Steven Clay Romero is charged with the dog's death. Delta Police don't know how Buddy ended up with Romero after his sister allegedly stole the dog.

Romero faces felony animal cruelty which carries an 18-month sentence if convicted.

As of Tuesday, nearly one week since a park employee discovered Buddy's body, more than 30,000 members have joined a Facebook page: "Demand Justice for Buddy."

Members are asking Romero, if found guilty, be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

"I can't imagine there would be many people out there that wouldn't find this to be a horrible crime," Balkin said.

Romero is due back in court on Thursday in Mesa County.

A criminal background check shows Romero has had several run-ins with the law, including arrests for drug and weapons possessions and traffic violations.

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