Former animal rescue president set to go on trial for animal abuse in December
A judge set a trial date Thursday for a former Fairfield County animal rescue president accused of killing five dogs.
Heidi Lueders is set to go on trial Dec. 1 and is facing five counts of malicious wounding or killing of an animal, along with a charge of criminal damage to property.
It comes after she again rejected the state's plea deal that would've included 5 years in jail suspended after 2.5 served and three years’ probation.
"This is a case designed to be resolved in a trial because there are a great number of differences related to how we see the facts as opposed to how the state sees the facts," says Rob Serafinowicz, Lueders' lawyer.
Fairfield police discovered five dogs starved to death in Lueders' home in November 2018 after she told her rescue they were sent to a sanctuary and a foster home. Her arrest warrant described the house as being filled with garbage and drug paraphernalia.
"I just can't stress enough that my client is a person that had a major, major drug issue and the addiction to - in this case heroin - was the driving force behind what happened," Serafinowicz says.
"There is no excuse for this while her own dogs were in the same home and well fed and taken care of - in the same home as these dogs that were found deceased with nothing but bones and their collars left around their decayed bodies," says Zilla Cannamela, the president of Desmond Army's Animal Law Advocates.
She says that the trial date is significant to the organization because it held a vigil for the dogs on the Fairfield Green on Dec. 1, 2018.
Lueders also waived her right to a jury trial, opting instead to have a judge hear the case.
“Our defense will have to do with the application of the law and will involve many, many different legal principles,” Serafinowicz says.
Serafinowicz also tells News 12 he went with a bench trial because of all the publicity that's surrounded the case - which, he believes, would've had an impact on a jury.
Lueders is facing up to five years in jail for each count, for a maximum potential of 30 years.