Judge deliberating in trial of accused Fairfield dog killer

The fate of a former pit bull rescue president accused of starving five dogs to death is now in the hands of a judge.
Heidi Lueders did not take the stand Tuesday nor did any witness for the defense. Instead, both sides made their closing arguments with about 30 people watching from the back of the courtroom, many of them animal advocates.
“The state submits that it has proved beyond a reasonable doubt, that Heidi Lueders intentionally killed all five of these dogs,” said Assistant State’s Attorney Felicia Valentino.
Valentino recapped testimony from the 10 witnesses she called during Lueders’ trial on five counts of maliciously killing an animal and one count of criminal damage to property. That testimony included Lueders’ landlord, Celly Roberts. Last week Roberts told the court she went into the home on Nov. 14, 2018 and found the dogs’ remains. Roberts also testified the home was filled with dog feces, garbage and drug paraphernalia.
When Fairfield police officers took the stand earlier in the trial, they told the court the home at 37 Prince St. smelled of rotting flesh.
“Your honor can infer from her actions of locking these five dogs in cages and one in a bedroom and withholding food and water that her intent was to kill them, “ Valentino said.
But Lueders’ defense attorney, Rob Serafinowicz, argued the evidence isn't there to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
“The theme in this case is they simply did not meet their burden,” Serafinowicz said. “And at best, the state has allowed the court to draw a conclusion that the defendant is probably guilty.”
Serafinowicz centered in on testimony from Dr. Herbert Van Kruiningen, a now retired veterinary pathologist, who examined the dogs post-mortem. Van Kruiningen said the necropsy could not determine cause of death because the remains had decomposed to just bones.
“The answers he gave simply do not amount to enough evidence for the state to prove the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt,” Serafinowicz said. “I think it's safe to say in this case, there's no way of knowing how these animals died.”
But Valentino countered Van Kruiningen came up with a cause after looking beyond the bones to other evidence in the file. He testified he believed the dogs died from lack of food and water.
“Further, the state submits to your honor that Ms. Lueders knew how to properly care for these dogs having been a dog owner, rescue owner and a dog trainer,” Valentino said.
Valentino added that while these dogs were left to suffer, Lueders fed three other dogs she had in the home. Valentino also recounted testimony from the state’s final witness—the detective who arrested Lueders.
“She knew what she did was wrong based on her statements made to Detective Dalling, who characterized her appearance and body language as remorseful. She told Detective Dalling, ‘I can't believe I did this,’” Valentino said.
Serafinowicz argued that the public outrage in this case, not the facts, is why the Lueders even went to trial. “This is clearly a case that was influenced by the fact that people didn't like the fact pattern as opposed to the law involved,” he said.
Judge Peter McShane will announce his verdict Wednesday afternoon. Lueders opted for a trial by judge rather than jury.