A couple has been charged with the deaths of four puppies, burying two of them and throwing the others in a fire pit while they were camping in Howell, authorities said.
Daniel McDonald, 25, and Tricia Jaccoma, 24 -- who according to Facebook are engaged -- were staying at a Somerset County farm where the animals were being raised around May 12, Monmouth County prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni said.
Shortly after, the puppies went missing -- just three weeks old, Gramiccioni said.
Two of the puppies' bodies were found in a fire pit on the property where Jaccoma and McDonald were staying May 18, he said.
An investigation found that the puppies were ill, in distress and struggling to breathe prior to their deaths.
Jaccoma and McDonald did not seek medical care for the ailing puppies because of the cost, Gramiccioni said.
A necropsy on the two buried puppies found they suffered from parasites and were severely emaciated and malnourished with “no indications of recent nutritional ingestion," he said.
Jaccoma, who remains at large, and McDonald were charged with four counts of animal cruelty -- one for each of the puppy's deaths, Gramiccioni said. They were also charged with multiple counts of receiving stolen property, for being in possession of the stolen puppies.
The investigation also found McDonald with a generator stolen from South Brunswick, and a John Deere front end loader stolen from Monroe. McDonald was charged with additional counts of receiving stolen property for the items taken from Middlesex County.
The Howell Township Police Department and Monmouth County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Law Enforcement Division, discovered two more dead puppies buried on the property.
Monmouth County Superior Court Judge Paul X. Escandon sent McDonald to Monmouth County Jail in Freehold on June 10.
Authorities are still trying to find Jaccoma. Anyone with information about her whereabouts is urged to call Humane Law Enforcement Officer Michael Magliozzo of the Monmouth County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals at 732 995-0329, or Howell Police Officer Heather Scherbinski at 732-938-4111.
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