Surprise Plea of Not Guilty from Buddy’s Killer
On January 27th, more than a dozen animal lovers gathered outside a federal courthouse in Grand Junction, CO to honor the memory of a dog named Buddy. In late December, the German shepherd mix was tied to the bumper of a truck and dragged until he was dead. They were also present to hear the plea from the man arrested for killing Buddy.
Prosecutors say that Steven Clay Romero tied a rope around Buddy’s neck and dragged the helpless dog for 3 miles behind his truck. The Denver Post reported “the dog was forced to run up and around steep hills at the Colorado National Monument near Grand Junction before it was dragged when it couldn’t keep up.” Buddy’s body was found with the rope tied around his neck on a snowy road.
Romero was arrested for the crime while he was in court for an unrelated incident. He was charged with aggravated cruelty to animals.
Prosecutors also said that Romero got Buddy from his sister, Melissa Lockhart, who allegedly stole two dogs from Joe Leber’s vehicle. A witness wrote down Lockhart’s license plate because the event looked suspicious.
Leber had rescued Buddy from a shelter more than four years ago. Lockhart brought Buddy to Romero’s home and asked him “to get rid of the dog.” She is charged with animal cruelty, felony theft and false-reporting charges. The other dog taken during the crime is safely home with Leber.
At his hearing, Romero gave a surprising plea of “not guilty” to U.S. Magistrate Judge Laird Milburn. According to one source, this plea may have been a tactic to stall and keep him in the small jail where he is currently being held. Romero told the U.S. Magistrate that he has been harassed by other inmates since his arrest.
He said, “Pretty much everybody thinks I’ve done it.”
Romero may be concerned about more intense harassment in a larger federal prison. That is where he would have been transferred if he had entered a plea of guilty. Apparently there is a code of ethics among prisoners for this type of cruel crime.
Being hassled by inmates isn’t Romero’s only worry; he is also receiving lot of notoriety from pet lovers. A Facebook page to honor Buddy has caused a lot of attention. “Justice for Buddy” was created by an anonymous animal activist known as Willie Wonka. More than 230,000 people joined the crusade. And more than 100,000 of them signed the Care2 petition that is listed on the Facebook page to see that Romero gets the maximum sentence of 3 years in prison, a fine of $100,000 and one year of probation.
Each person’s signature was printed and bound in a book that measured 18 inches thick. Animal advocate Gary Sherman of Colorado personally delivered the Care2 petition to prosecutors before Romero’s arraignment.
“Sadly, Buddy is not the only horrific animal abuse case we’ve heard about,” Sherman said to the Denver Post. “The reaction to him has been extraordinary, Buddy struck a nerve, and it became viral.”
The developers of “Justice for Buddy” have now created a second Facebook page to encourage angry petitioners to support animal welfare organizations in their communities. “Tell Em Buddy Sent You” asks pet lovers’ to perform at least one act of kindness on behalf of homeless animals. Suggestions range from walking a homeless dog at a shelter or delivering food and blankets.
“We’ve gotten hundreds of people who are doing great things. Some are adopting or fostering dogs and many are naming their dogs, Buddy,” Sherman said.
Facebook Justice for Buddy creator