A 65-year-old New Jersey man known as "Wild Willie" was sentenced to five years in state prison for shooting his neighbor's poodle in the head, ultimately killing the animal, authorities said.
William D. Stroemel had his sentence handed down by Superior Court Judge Gerard H. Breland as the result of a negotiated plea deal, Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina said.
Stroemel, a heavy equipment operator, in April pleaded guilty to possession of a weapon for unlawful purpose and animal cruelty.
The investigation began in September 2019, when the owners of a 9-year-old Pomeranian-poodle mix told police a neighbor had found him howling in pain the previous day, Coffina said.
A n examination of the dog, named Toby, found he'd been shot in the head, and was euthanized the following day.
More than $2,900 had been raised on a GoFundMe for Toby as of Friday.
Detectives from the Maple Shade Police Department found Stroemel shot Toby with an air rifle while the dog was passing his home in the street, and then gave the gun to an acquaintance and asked him to hold it for him, Coffina said.
Breland sentenced Stroemel in accordance with the negotiated agreement, even though Stroemel and his attorney argued that the prison term should be reconsidered.
“He admitted that he shot Toby, an innocent, defenseless pet,” Coffina said. “But rather than express true remorse, he attempted to evade the custodial sentence that was agreed upon."
Assistant Prosecutor Melissa O’Mara stressed to the court that the defendant must be held accountable for his actions.
“Mr. Stroemel is here because he possessed a weapon he could not have, he used that weapon unlawfully in broad daylight and shot a dog in the middle of the street in Maple Shade, killing that dog, and then took that weapon and gave it to somebody else to hide,” she said.
Stroemel was initially charged with weapons offenses following the discovery of a .22 caliber pistol during the execution of a search warrant at his home.
Additional charges were added after a necropsy was performed and the pellet removed from Toby’s head was connected to an air rifle Stroemel had at the time of the shooting.
As part of the plea agreement, Stroemel must repay Toby's owners for the cost of the veterinary care and necropsy.
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