Cutler verdict returned in dog shooting case (updated 6:22-p.m.)


April 16th, 2013 by Ric Hanson

The jury in the case of a Marne man facing an Aggravated Misdemeanor charge of Animal Abuse in connection with the shooting of a Colorado woman’s dog who strayed onto his property Dec. 24th, 2012,  rendered its verdict Tuesday afternoon, after a single day of testimony. District Court Judge James M. Richardson announced the decision of the seven woman, five man members of the jury before confirming the verdict with the jury foreman.

Charles Collins Cutler on the witness stand

It took approximately 30-minutes for the jury to deliberate and determine 56-year old Charles Collins Cutler was guilty of the offense. Their decision was handed down at around 5:15-p.m. The Judge ordered sentencing in the case to take place 9-a.m. May 6th, in Cass County District Court.

Earlier in the afternoon, the jury heard testimony from Dr. Keith Leonard, with the Atlantic Animal Health Center. The veterinarian testified the chocolate Labrador belonging to Stacey Ernat, an Elementary School Teacher in Denver, Colorado, died 30-minutes after it was brought in to his clinic for examination and treatment. Also testifying in the case was Cass County Deputy Corey Larsen, who, during the investigation into the incident, asked Cutler why he shot the 18-month old dog Ernat had owned since she obtained it from a breeder when it was a puppy. Cutler told the deputy it was because he feared for his dog’s safety, and “Was just tired” of animals running loose in Marne, especially on his property.

Ernat testified her dog, which was wearing a collar and tags, along with “Ranger,” a German Shepherd owned by her boyfriend Brandon Petersen’s brother, Jeremy Petersen, were outside playing before they were to make the long trip to the Quad Cities to visit Stacey’s parents.

Stacey Ernat

She learned from Brandon that something terrible had happened to her dog “Wrigley,” as she was preparing to load the car with their belongings. She says she ran through the snow to where the dogs were playing, and saw her dog laying under a pontoon boat, bleeding from her hind quarters, looking dead. They immediately took the dog to Atlantic to try and save it.

Collins Cutler testified that he was in his garage and was afraid to walk to his house because he heard one of the two dogs growling, but he didn’t know which one. After he ordered the dogs to “Get,” he went into the garage and loaded a .410 shotgun, and pointed it at the one dog that was left on his property…Wrigley…before pulling the trigger. Cutler said he was afraid for his cats and his own dog, which was secured in his house, when he shot the Lab. The animal he said may have been turning away when the pellets hit it in the right rear flank.

The jury ruled Cutler did not have the right to shoot a collared and licensed dog, because under Iowa law, the animal was not chasing, maiming or killing another domestic animal, or attacking or attempting to bite a person. Following the verdict, Ernat said while the verdict “Will not bring Wrigley back,” it sends a message that “It is not okay to abuse animals,” and that Cutler “Needs to be held accountable for his actions, and being found guilty and having to go endure the repercussions makes her happy,” and will help to bring closure to a four-month long ordeal. She said she knows her dog would have wanted to find the happiness she had when the two were together. Cutler faces up to 2-years in prison and a fine not to exceed $6,250, when he’s sentenced next month.