Man charged for allegedly stabbing dog to death in Utica park

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published January 31, 2019

 A Utica man, Alexander Gerth, 22, faces a charge of killing/torturing an animal for allegedly killing a dog named Sterling that was found dead in Grant Park in Utica Jan. 24.

A Utica man, Alexander Gerth, 22, faces a charge of killing/torturing an animal for allegedly killing a dog named Sterling that was found dead in Grant Park in Utica Jan. 24.

UTICA — The suspect who investigators believe is responsible for the torturous death of a dog at Grant Park in Utica last week was arraigned Jan. 31 at the 41-A District Court in Shelby Township.

Alexander Gerth, 22, of Utica, has been arraigned on one count of killing/torturing an animal in connection with the stabbing and killing of the dog named Sterling.

Sterling, who was previously adopted from the Michigan Humane Society, was stabbed multiple times and killed in the park after going missing Jan. 23.

According to a press release from the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office, there was a trail of blood from a nearby waste receptacle to the location where Sterling died, which the Prosecutor's Office said was under a picnic table.  

“The inhumane treatment of Sterling by this defendant is unconscionable,” stated Prosecutor Eric Smith. “My office is fully committed to prosecuting this case at the fullest extent under the law. No animal deserves to have his life ended this way.”

Animal cruelty is a felony, and a conviction for an incident such as this has the potential for a sentence of up to four years in prison. Gerth was given a $25,000 cash or surety bond and ordered to have no contact with animals, nor possess any firearms. He did not have an attorney at the arraignment and requested that the court appoint him an attorney. His next court dates are scheduled to be a probable cause hearing Feb. 11 and a preliminary examination Feb. 19.

The press release states that Gerth originally applied for ownership of Sterling, but was denied due to his living situation. He then got a friend to adopt Sterling for him and moved Sterling into his apartment at the end of December, according to the Prosecutor’s Office. The Prosecutor’s Offices states in the press release that “Gerth admitted to hitting and punching Sterling on numerous occasions in the short time that Sterling lived with him, stating he used the physical abuse as a means of discipline.”

“Rest assured that there will be no plea bargaining in the case. We have charged Gerth with (the) most severe charge on the books; and, we will be asking for the maximum possible sentence provided under the law,” Smith stated. “There is no doubt that there needs to be tougher laws addressing animal abuse.”

Utica police, the Michigan Humane Society and Crime Stoppers of Michigan held a joint press conference Jan. 29 to appeal to the public for help and offer a reward for information that could lead to an arrest and conviction in the case.

“At 11 a.m. on Jan. 24, 2019, our DPW, they were doing routine maintenance at Grant Park in the city of Utica and came across a deceased dog. They felt that he had been abused, so they called us out there. Police Department went out and began to investigate. There was enough evidence on the scene to indicate the dog had been killed at the park. It appeared that the dog had been abused and died of the injuries,” Utica Police Detective Greg Morabito said at the Jan. 29 press conference.

The owner reportedly had mentioned to police that Sterling did leave once in a while, but always came back home. The owner was not home at the time of the incident, and the dog was last seen inside the home when the owner left.

The owner had noticed the dog was missing Jan. 23 and let the department know. The dog had been missing for 24 hours when he was found.

Morabito said at the press conference that at this time, the owner is not a suspect and that the dog resided in Macomb County, but not in Utica.

The dog had been adopted from the Michigan Humane Society Dec. 29.

The Michigan Humane Society watched Sterling grow up, and a representative said that this was one of the worst cases that the society had seen in a long time.

“This is something no person should have to see and no dog should have to go through,” said Elise Ramsey, an investigator from the Michigan Humane Society, at the Jan. 29 press conference.