Expert testifies he believes dogs in Heidi Lueders case died from lack of food and water
Dr. Herbert Van Kruiningen, a recently retired veterinary pathologist, took the stand Wednesday in the case against Heidi Lueders, the former pit bull rescue president accused in the deaths of five dogs.
"I think they died from lack of care, lack of food and water, and I don't know which was the greater damage," Van Kruiningen testified.
The dogs were found dead inside latched cages in the home Lueders was renting at 37 Prince Street in Fairfield in Nov. 2018.
MORE: 'They were decomposed almost totally:' Animal control officers and detective take stand in day 2 of accused dog killer's trial
MORE: 'Smell of rotting flesh.' Trial begins against former pit bull rescue president accused of killing dogs
Van Kruiningen was a senior pathologist at the University of Connecticut at the time and examined the remains of the dogs, which have come to be known as "The Fairfield Five."
Van Kruiningen said in court that there was no trauma to the bones so he could not say how the animals died based on the necropsies.
"We were only given bones and skin, you know. We're not miracle workers," Van Kruiningen said on the stand. But he testified he came to his conclusion after reviewing other information including the dogs' veterinary records. He also said the dogs had been dead in their cages at least a month but he didn't have a definitive time frame.
On cross-examination, attorney Rob Serafinowicz got Van Kruiningen to admit he couldn't say for certain how the dogs died.
"You agree with me that it's possible the dogs died of a disease that nobody knows about, correct? asked Serafinowicz.
"That is true," said Van Kruiningen.
"And you cannot remove such a conclusion beyond a medical certainty, correct?" added Serafinowicz. Van Kruiningen agreed.
Judge Peter McShane had the final questions for Van Kruiningen. Lueders is on trial before McShane after she opted out of a jury trial. She's charged with five counts of malicious wounding or killing of an animal, which is a felony, and one count of criminal damage of property.
McShane wanted to know if based on all the information reviewed, Van Kruiningen could say with a reasonable degree of medical certainty the dogs' cause of death.
"I believe that the dogs died from starvation or lack of water," Van Kruiningen reiterated. He confirmed to the judge he was talking about all five dogs.
More than a dozen animal advocates, most of them from Desmond's Army, were in court Wednesday to hear the testimony first-hand as they have been the past two days.
The trial is done for the week and will pick back up Monday. The prosecution has said its next two witnesses will be virtual.