Rose Adkins, an advocate for Sterling, hugs Macomb County Assistant Prosecutor Anthony Sorentino after Alexander Gerth’s sentencing in circuit court April 23.

Rose Adkins, an advocate for Sterling, hugs Macomb County Assistant Prosecutor Anthony Sorentino after Alexander Gerth’s sentencing in circuit court April 23.

Photo by Kara Szymanski

Utica man sentenced to 3-6 years in prison for stabbing dog to death

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published April 29, 2019


UTICA — Alexander Gerth, of Utica, has been sentenced to at least three years and up to six years in prison for stabbing a dog and leaving him to die in Grant Park in Utica.

Gerth, 23, appeared in front of Judge Richard Caretti at the 16th Circuit Court April 23 for his sentencing.

“Any way you view this case, it is despicable and reprehensible. In my almost 17 years on the bench, your case is by far the worst, most deplorable example of animal cruelty I’ve ever seen. Mahatma Gandhi once said that the greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated. Your treatment of Sterling was reprehensible. Sterling would have looked to you for love, shelter and food. Instead, he was a victim of your unbelievable cruelty,” Caretti said.

Sterling, a medium-sized dog, was found with multiple stab wounds under a picnic table, in below-freezing temperatures, in Grant Park Jan. 24. There was a trail of blood from a nearby waste receptacle to the location where Sterling was found.

Sterling, a pit bull mix, reportedly had to leave a home because his breed was no longer allowed where his owner, who was fostering him, lived. According to the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office, when Sterling was returned to the Michigan Humane Society, he was adopted by a person who was friends with Gerth — Gerth had wanted to adopt Sterling but was denied — and Sterling was then given to Gerth.

According to a press release from the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office in February, Gerth reportedly 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.”

During the sentencing, Caretti mentioned that Gerth had bragged about an instance where he had punched Sterling so hard that he made the dog “urinate all over the place.”

Caretti stated that he could not in good conscience follow a Cobbs sentencing agreement to sentence Gerth at the bottom of the sentencing guidelines.

Amy Tummey, a representative from the Michigan Humane Society, where Sterling was adopted from, spoke during the case.

“During his stay (at the shelter), we worked with him daily to improve his confidence, overcome fears and learn how to trust in a strange new world. After a few weeks, he started to blossom. ... He loved everyone that he met, battling the situations linked to him. He looked to humans for reassurance that he was OK. He was able to go up for adoption, and we waited for him to find his forever home. What he found instead was a man who was determined to take him home.

“In Mr. Gerth’s home he would not find love or comfort, but abuse at the ultimate price. The senseless, calculated and malicious actions are beyond comprehension. His actions did not affect just one person or animal; it affected our community — the animal welfare community as a whole. It left me wondering what my role was in animal welfare if I couldn’t trust the people who adopt our animals,” said Tummey.

“The actions by Gerth stole a bit of trust from everyone who loves animals. His merciless actions will not be forgotten,” said Tummey.

In a press release, Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith stated, “The sentencing guidelines for the case were two to 21 months. The judge’s sentence ensures (the) defendant, at a minimum, spends 36 months behind bars, exceeding the guidelines by more than a year. Sterling has brought great awareness to such a critical issue that troubles us as a society. As county prosecutor, my office will continue shining a light on the need to bring all parties together to ensure no animal is abused or neglected.

“We commend the sentence that clearly demonstrates, crimes of this nature will never be tolerated! I want to extend my appreciation to the Utica police, Animal Control, the Humane Society, my staff and all of the animal welfare activists that have contacted us and played a critical role in seeking justice for Sterling.”

Gerth had waived his preliminary hearing Feb. 11 at the 41-A District Court in Shelby Township and agreed to move his case to the circuit court in Mount Clemens for arraignment.

At the court March 18, Gerth pleaded no contest to a charge of killing/torturing an animal after waiving his arraignment.

According to the prosecutor, a plea of no contest is treated the same as a guilty plea under the law for sentencing.

A previous incident on Gerth’s record involving an armed robbery that occurred on Aug. 4, 2014, in Illinois was brought up during the arraignment March 18 and again at his sentencing. Court records show that he was charged as a habitual offender, which increased the penalty.

According to Smith, state legislation was passed in December 2018 and signed into law to increase the penalties associated with the abuse of animals. That went into effect for all crimes committed after March 28, 2019.

“Gerth was charged with (the) most severe charge on the books at the time,” Smith stated. “Thankfully, the Legislature recently modified the penalty for this charge, making it a 10-year felony. Unfortunately, the change did not go into effect in time for Sterling.”

Many supporters were in attendance during the sentencing and felt that the case had a better outcome than expected.

“I think that Gerth got exactly what he should get, and we would expect more, but we’re very thankful that the judge took the time to read the 6,500 signatures and what our thoughts are in regards to the sentencing of Gerth. We as a group — voices — are very happy with the sentencing. So three to six; he will do three, and there will be a potential that he will further it to six, which we’re very happy with,” said Delores Moore, of Utica, who worked with other advocates to support Sterling.

Gerth’s lawyer, Mariell Lehman, shared her thoughts during the sentencing.

“Alex accepts all responsibility for what happened that night. … He has in no way tried to excuse his behavior. … He has in no way tried to justify his actions. If he could do that night over again, he wouldn’t do what happened.” said Lehman.

Gerth made a statement before being sentenced.

“Looking back, I realize there are better ways of handling this situation, but at the time, while in the moment, it was my only option. I do not say this as an attempt to justify my actions. Rather, I respectfully want people to know and understand that I did not do this with some kind of sick, twisted, premeditated motive. As was said before, if I could go back, believe me, I would. I do hope a part of my punishment would include some classes that will provide me with the knowledge needed to lead me in the direction of rationally acceptable decision-making skills. I sincerely apologize to the community, my family and Sterling.”

Gerth will pay $223.90 in restitution to the Michigan Humane Society and he will never be able to own a dog again.