'Smell of rotting flesh.' Trial begins against former pit bull rescue president accused of killing dogs

Heidi Lueders is charged with five counts of malicious wounding or killing of an animal, along with a charge of criminal damage to property.

News 12 Staff

Jan 31, 2022, 10:39 PM

Updated 849 days ago

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The trial for Heidi Lueders, accused of starving five dogs to death inside the Fairfield home she was renting, began Monday with emotional testimony.
Celly Roberts, Lueders' landlord, was the first witness to take the stand and testified about finding the dogs' remains in cages on Nov. 14, 2018. Roberts said she went into home at 37 Prince St. because Lueders told her there was a problem with the heat.
"I saw the first dog -- what I thought was not real to begin with. And then I got closer, and I saw the remains, and I saw the teeth, and I saw the toes and the dog collar. And I freaked," Roberts recounted.
Lueders, the former president of the now-disbanded Bully Breed Rescue, is on trial before Judge Peter McShane. She's charged with five counts of malicious wounding or killing of an animal, which is a felony, and criminal damage to property. Lueders opted for a trial by judge rather than jury.
Before the trial began Monday, the judge denied a motion from Lueders' attorney, Rob Serafinowicz, to suppress evidence.  
On the stand Monday, Roberts needed tissues for some of her time, calling what she found "horrific." Roberts also said the home was full of garbage, needles, and other drug paraphernalia — so much so she couldn't see the floor and found it hard to walk. She went on to testify the home was so trashed, a contractor told her she'd need to bring in a Hazmat company, rip up the floors, flush out the walls with chemicals, and redo the kitchen. Roberts said she was unable to afford the repairs, so the home went into foreclosure.
Officer Raymond Quiles was the second witness called by Assistant State's Attorney Felicia Valentino. Quiles was one of the first officers who responded to 37 Prince St. that day. He testified, "There was a smell of rotting flesh" coming from inside the home. Quiles entered the home with officer John McGrath and an animal control officer. McGrath took the stand Monday and recalled, "We saw a lot of filth, a lot of garbage. There were, I believe, five dog carcasses that were inside of crates around the house."
Testimony in the case picks up Tuesday afternoon. Lueders previously rejected a deal from the state for 2 1/2 years in jail.


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