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Tag: murder

Clearing the name of Pep the prison dog

pepFolklore has it that Pep, a black Lab that belonged to a Pennsylvania governor, was sent to Eastern State Penitentiary in the 1920s to serve a life sentence for killing the governor’s wife’s cat.

Folklore, as is often the case, has it wrong.

Pep apparently was guilty of nothing more than chewing up sofa cushions, and, once it was decided he lacked the proper decorum to live at the governor’s mansion, he was sent to the prison in Philadelphia by Gov. Gifford Pinchot.

That was done not so much as punishment, but to provide him a home and see if he could aid in the rehabilitation of inmates, according to the governor’s papers.

Apparently a newspaper reporter came up with the tall tale of the dog sentenced to prison for cat murder, and a mugshot taken of Pep at the prison supplied some credence to the story.

Despite attempts to set the record straight, the myth lingers to this day.

According to EasternState.org, a non-profit group that now runs a haunted house at the abandoned prison, Pep “The Cat-Murdering Dog” was admitted to Eastern State Penitentiary on August 12, 1924.

“Prison folklore tells us that Pennsylvania Governor Gifford Pinchot used his executive powers to sentence Pep to life without parole for killing his wife’s cherished cat,” the website says, adding that prison records, including Pep being assigned his own inmate number (C-2559), support the story.

It notes that the governor had a different version of what happened — namely that he sent Pep to Eastern to act as a mascot for the prisoners. The governor, it says, was a friend of the warden, Herbert “Hard-Boiled” Smith.

A more thorough account of how Pep landed in prison can be found on the website Suite101.com.

Pep, that story explains, was a gift to Gov. Pinchot during his first gubernatorial term (1923–1927), from the nephew of his wife, Cornelia Bryce Pinchot. The nephew bred Labrador retrievers. But the gift turned out to be a destructive one. Pep developed a habit of chewing on the cushions of the front porch sofa.

“… Pinchot decided that Pep had to go, but for the sake of family harmony he did not want to end the dog’s life,” the Suite101 account says. “Fortunately, an official trip gave him the idea for a convenient way of getting the dog out of his home. On a visit to Maine, Pinchot had seen dogs that were used as therapy to help inmates. So when the governor got back to Pennsylvania he decided to give the troublesome Pep to Eastern State Penitentiary as a pet.”

At the time, some inmates kept pigeons and mice as pets, but not dogs. The only dogs at the prison were guard dogs, there to ensure prisoners stayed inside and in line.

But the inmates quickly developed a fondness for Pep, and apparently vice versa. Pep lived among the inmates at Eastern State for about a decade until he was transferred to newly constructed state prison called Graterford.

Two years after he was sent to Eastern, in 1926, Cornelia Bryce-Pinchot issued a statement to the New York Times in an attempt to clear Pep’s name.

Governor Pinchot’s son also maintained that there was no murder involved.

“A newspaper reporter with a sense of humor and disregard for the truth wrote that Pep had been sentenced to prison for life for killing Mrs. Pinchot’s favorite cat,” the Suite 101 article says.

The son said his father got “absolutely thousands of letters” about Pep and this sentence, according to papers at Grey Towers National Historic Site, Governor Pinchot’s home in Milford. The made-up account, along with the mugshot, was frequently reprinted in tabloids at the time.

As some have noted, Pep — innocent as he might have been — looks pretty guilty in the mugshot.

But then again, don’t we all?

(Image: Artist rendering of Pep, based on an archival photo / Easternstate.org)

Dog’s DNA leads to owner’s murder conviction

His own dog’s DNA helped convict a reputed gang member in south London of the murder of a 16-year-old.

Oluwaseyi Ogunyemi was killed in a “vicious” attack by a gang of youths who set upon him and his friends with their dogs. One of the dogs,  a Staffordshire bull terrier-bull mastiff cross called Tyson, brought Ogunyemi down as he tried to climb over a fence, after which the youth was stabbed six times by its owner Chrisdian Johnson.

Johnson was arrested as he fled the scene of the murder last April, bare-chested and covered in blood.

New DNA technology proved by a billion-to-one probability that some of the blood on Johnson came from his dog Tyson, who had been knifed during the fighting. The rest came from Ogunyemi.

Johnson was also found guilty of the attempted murder of Seyi’s 17-year-old friend Hurui Hiyabum, whom he stabbed nine times.

Scientists used DNA profiling to prove that samples collected during the investigation were a billion times more likely to come from two specific dogs involved in the attack than any other animals, the BBC reported.

Police  hailed the dog DNA technology, which had just been developed at the time of the murder, as a “hugely powerful investigative tool”.

Elevator surveillance nabs dog abuser

 

New York City police investigating the fatal stabbing of a nine-year-old came across an unrelated crime — a small dog being repeatedly kicked in an elevator at the Grant Houses.

The assault showed up on surveillance cameras being monitored by police, leading them to arrest Chris Grant, the Manhattan man seen in the video.

Grant, 21, is seen in the footage dragging a friend’s 12-pound Pomeranian-Chihuahua mix, named Chuvi-Duvi, into the Grant Houses elevator. He kicks the dog, pets it, then kicks it again.

On his way back up the elevator, after a trip to a nearby deli, the same scene plays out again.

Police say Chuvi-Duvi didn’t suffer any broken bones in last Saturday’s attack and is recovering at Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital.

Officers from the police department’s Viper unit watched the attack from a remote location and arrested Grant two days later.

“I’m not trusting nobody with my dog,” said the pup’s owner, Melvin Rodriguez, 22, who picked the pooch up from the ASPCA.

The squad started tracking down Grant just an hour after they helped make an arrest in the fatal stabbing of 9-year-old Anthony Maldonado in the same Morningside Heights complex.

The Viper squad is responsible for monitoring surveillance cameras in city housing projects.

A mystery unravels in dog trainer’s death

stoverThe body of the Pacific Northwest’s most famous dog trainer still hasn’t been found, but authorities have charged his ex-wife’s boyfriend with his murder.

T. Mark Stover was the Seattle area’s dog-trainer-to-the-stars, with clients that ranged from members of Pearl Jam and Nirvana to  Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz to Seattle Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, who entrusted Stover with his Shiba Inu.

Last month, employees at the kennel, Island Dog Adventures, 55 miles north of Seattle, found Stover’s dog, Dingo, shot in the face, but authorities could find no signs of Stover, other than smears of his blood in a downstairs bedroom and hallway.

Prosecutors have charged his ex-wife’s boyfriend,  Michiel Oakes, with murder, according to an Associated Press report.

Stover, 57, and ex-wife Linda Opdycke, 45, opened Island Dog Adventures in the early 1990s on an island owned by her wealthy family. Her father was one of the founders of Washington’s biggest winery, Chateau Ste. Michelle.

Read more »

Man gets 25-year sentence for killing dog

A California  man with a  history of violence was sentenced Friday to more than 25 years in prison for beating his former girlfriend’s cocker spaniel to death with a hammer.

The conviction was a third strike for Alex Castro, leading in part to the lengthy sentence, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

Castro, 48, of Milpitas, said the sentence was too much for killing a dog — and that he should get no more than the maximum three-year sentence for animal cruelty. The judge said he could not ignore the violence Castro inflicted in his life, according to the prosecutor.

“I am appreciative that not only did a jury take this case incredibly seriously, as evidenced by their verdict, but also that the judge did,” said Deputy District Attorney Kevin Smith. “Despite the defendant’s claims he was getting too much time for ‘only killing a dog,’ he is getting this sentence for the violence in his past.”

A drywall worker, Castro was sentenced to 25 years to life for the 2007 dog killing, but with enhancements to his sentence, the earliest he’d be eligible for parole is 33 years, Smith said.

Read more »

Told he can’t have dog, he kills the landlord

A Chicago man is accused of killing the landlord who told him he couldn’t have a dog, using garden tools, an ice scraper, a BB gun and a pipe to allegedly beat him before setting his body on fire.

Martin Vega, 27, is charged with first-degree murder and could face the death penalty, Cook County prosecutors said.

A judge denied bail for Vega, who was renting an apartment from William Hallin, 67, in the two-story home Hallin owned in Chicago’s Gage Park community, according to the Chicago Tribune.

On Friday, Hallin went to collect rent and saw Vega had a dog in his apartment. When Hallin told Vega he would have to move out, a bloody fight ensued, officials said.

Attorney helps children of groomer he sued

erikwebbA Tennessee lawyer who was suing a local groomer over the death of his dog is now working to raise money for the groomer’s parentless children.

Knoxville attorney Tom Ramsey set up the fund after learning that Erik Webb, the man he was suing, had fatally stabbed his wife, then shot and killed himself.

The Webbs had three children.

Erik Webb owned Happy Tails Pet Spa in West Knoxville. He and his wife, Sarah, were separated, according to a  WATE-TV report.

Police said Webb killed his wife with a kitchen knife at her home, then drove to his pet spa and shot himself.

Ramsey started the fund the day after the killing. Ramsey had taken his beagle, Moxie, to Happy Tails last year for a bath and the dog later died. A necropsy found Moxie suffered broken ribs and a lacerated liver, as well as bruising inside the beagle’s ear and mouth and signs of heat exhaustion.

The Ramsey family filed a $750,000 lawsuit in December claiming that their dog died as a result of “intentional or highly reckless conduct.” Webb was also charged with animal cruelty.

Ramsey says he doesn’t feel responsible for what happened, but started the fund to help the Webb’s children.

“I’ve got three kids and I spent a sleepless night last night, obviously. But our goal all along with this lawsuit was only to stop the practices that were going on. Our goal wasn’t …  to hurt anybody in the family or family members.” Ramsey says.

(Photo: Erik Webb in police file photo)

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