A Trempealeau County family is questioning whether justice has been served after their dog was shot and killed while on their neighbor's property.
Twenty-three-year-old Trevor Moller admitted to shooting the dog, but said he thought it was a coyote. Moller was originally charged with a felony for mistreatment of an animal, which can carry up to three-and-a-half years of prison, but at a recent hearing, the charges were reduced to six months of probation. Now the family is wondering how this could have happened.
“My job as district attorney is to look at the entirety of the circumstances,” said Taavi McMahon, Trempealeau County district attorney.
McMahon has been on the case from the beginning. Jesse and Shannon McPherson, the owners of the dog named Rocky, contacted the police and the district attorney as soon as they found out their dog had been killed.
"He called us back and said yes we have a witness, we have evidence, we have a confession, we will go forward with this,” said Jesse.
The district attorney and the McPherson family came up with a plea agreement, which included three years of probation, a $1,000 fine and six months in jail. However, three days before Monday's hearing, the plea agreement changed.
"We got called and told that we're going to go with six months’ probation, alcohol assessment and some others, an apology letter, and I responded with that's ridiculous,” said Jesse.
Trevor Moller entered a plea to a misdemeanor charge of animal cruelty and entered into a diversion program.
“A participant in a diversion program has the opportunity to show us that they are not going to become a criminal. In other words, they have the opportunity to do the right thing, follow the rules and if they complete successfully, the case is dismissed,” said McMahon.
If Moller doesn't follow all the conditions within his agreement, he could be found guilty and face re-sentencing.
"I wrote a statement to the judge and to Taavi stating that we were in disagreement completely with what they had decided to settle with the plea agreement on Monday. We thought it should be the original plea agreement,” said Shannon.
The district attorney said he has to take all the facts into consideration.
"In this case, the defendant had no prior criminal history, he scored very low on Compass, which is a risk assessment tool that the department of corrections uses,” said McMahon. "Clearly he, in my opinion, committed a crime and we hope that we achieved some justice for Rocky, the dog that was killed in this case."
The McPhersons obviously are not satisfied with the outcome.
"We wanted it to go to trial, we wanted the citizens of the county to have a voice in this and we wanted them to at least continue trying,” said Jesse and Shannon.
"That's not justice...that's not justice at all,” said Jesse.
The McPhersons will continue to advocate for Rocky in hopes of tougher penalties.