When Mathew Milewski’s new puppy, Molly, arrived by plane from Arkansas on Nov. 11, 2011, her paperwork included a note from the folks at Outback Beagles.“I hope that she brings as much joy to you and your family as our dogs have brought us,’’ wrote breeder Sheila Rodgers “I wish her a long life of happiness and contentment.’’
The 4-month-old puppy got neither.
Police say Milewski, 25, a Sunny Isles Beach “high-frequency’’ trader, intentionally killed the 7-pound dog 24 hours after picking her up at Miami International Airport by dragging her across a parking lot until she bled, beating her with her leash, and slamming her into a hard surface.
One year later, witnesses say they’re still heartsick about what they saw and heard.
“Every day, I think about it,’’ said Paola Charry, 41, a nodding acquaintance of Milewski’s at The Crown, 4041 Collins Ave., where both lived at the time. “This for me was a nightmare. For everybody in the building it was a nightmare.’’
Charry told police that from her seventh-floor apartment, she heard Molly screaming, and from her balcony saw the 6-foot-1 Milewski hauling the spread-eagled pup across pavement.
Milewski, who has no criminal record, is facing third-degree felony animal cruelty charges in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, and if convicted, up to five years in prison and/or up to a $10,000 fine. Trial is set for Jan. 28 before Judge Yvonne Colodny.
In Milewski’s corner is David Macey, the attorney who represented another young man in a sensational animal abuse case: Tyler Hayes Weinman, 19 when he was accused of slaughtering 19 cats in South Miami-Dade in 2009.
Despite widely publicized, apparently damning circumstantial evidence, including necropsies by veterinarians from Miami-Dade Animal Services and the ASPCA, prosecutors dropped the charges after a defense expert concluded that a large animal killed some of the cats.
Weinman is suing several parties to the case.
Macey declined to say whether the same expert, Dr. Richard Stroud, is or will be involved in Milewski’s case.
Macey acknowledged that with Molly, “you can’t dispute there are injuries. How they occurred, whether or not it was a criminal act, is the question.’’
He added: “There are some things that have not come to light yet’’ in his client’s favor.
Milewski, arrested on Nov. 18, 2011, told Miami Beach police that he dropped the puppy in the shower.
“I don’t think I did anything wrong, other than the outcome was very poor because of the way the dog landed,’’ he said. “This was 100 percent an accident.’’
Molly arrived in Miami at 2:35 p.m. Nov. 11, 2011. American Airlines records show that Milewski picked her up at 3:14 p.m.
During a 20-minute taped interview with investigators, during which Milewski called Molly “it,’’ he said he found her on the Internet, but didn’t like her coat and considered returning her.
He took her to the apartment he shared with his then-boyfriend and another beagle named Macy. The next day, he said, he put an electric-shock collar and leash on Molly and walked her in the building’s parking lot.
Valet parker Carlos Gregorio told police he was bringing a car from the garage when he “heard a loud scream from a dog.’’ Thinking he’d hit an animal, Gregorio got out of the car. That’s when he saw Milewski “striking his dog with the leash,’’ he told police.
Milewski denied it.
He told police he was following training instructions from the shock-collar manual, even though to onlookers, it might have looked “abusive.”
“Dogs don’t become extremely obedient with rainbows and sugarplums,’’ Milewski said, adding that he’d trained Macy in a “very aggressive’’ way.
He told investigators Tracy Sierra and Gus Sanchez that he took Molly back to his apartment after he noticed one of her paws bleeding.
“When I went to put the dog underneath the shower head, it didn’t like that at all and it bit me…,’’ he said. “I was very shocked. I don’t like blood. When the dog bit me, a lot of blood came out and I overreacted to the dog doing this.’’
At one point in the interview, he said he “pushed’’ the dog in the shower. At another, he said he’d told a veterinarian at Alton Road Animal Hospital: “The way I threw the dog was definitely bad.’’
Milewski said after the dog hit the shower floor, he tried to revive her.
“From there it was, I guess you can call it, unconscious, so I gave it CPR,’’ he said in his taped statement. “I tried to stand the dog up. I blew in the dog. I covered its beak [sic], the dog’s belly puffed up. I thought it was going to blow up, then it s—.’’
He called a friend who advised him to take Molly to a vet.
Dr. Heidi Foster, at Alton Road, told police she tried to stabilize Molly and keep her “alive and comfortable,’’ and that although she was unconscious, Molly’s heart was beating normally.
But the X-ray machine was broken, and Foster directed Milewski to a clinic in Coral Gables. He called a friend from the building, Stacey Laneve, who put the dog into her own pet carrier and seat-belted the carrier into the passenger seat of Milewski’s BMW.
Foster told police that “20 minutes later I got a call [from Milewski] that the dog’s heart had stopped beating in the car…I found it odd just due to the fact that [Molly’s] heart rate was so fast and strong, and the vitals were fine.’’
Milewski returned with the dead dog, which Foster placed in a freezer.
When she heard the next day that Molly was dead, Charry called police. Animal Services investigators retrieved the body and brought in an outside expert to do the necropsy: Dr. Rosandra Manduca, a veterinary pathologist and adjunct professor at Miami Dade College.
“Death was likely due to brain injury secondary to head trauma,’’ Manduca concluded. She found injuries suggesting that the dog had been shaken and slammed against a hard surface. She also found bruising on the mouth and nostrils, indicating Molly may have been smothered.
Stacey Laneve told police she suspected that Milewski also had abused Macy.
A month before Molly’s death, Milewski brought Macy into the building’s management office, where Laneve worked as an assistant property manager, and asked if he should take the dog to the vet.
Macy “was shaking,’’ said Laneve, 36. “I went closer and noticed hemorrhaging in her eyes. I freaked out. To me that’s a bad sign.’’
After Molly’s death, Animal Services confiscated Macy, then returned her to Milewski’s boyfriend, to whom she was registered. The men reportedly split up after moving out of The Crown.
The day after Molly’s death, Laneve sent Milewski a text message: “I think there’s more to this story.’’
She said that his return text read: “Do you think I’d kill a dog I just paid $1,300 for? I would have sold it.’’
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Dr. Rosandra Manduca, a veterinary pathologist and adjunct professor at Miami Dade College, was recruited by Animal Services to perform a necropsy.
She concluded death was ‘likely due to a brain injury secondary to head trauma.’
Molly’s injuries pointed to having been shaken and slammed against a hard surface, and their was bruising around her mouth, indicating that she may have been smothered.
Accusations are already being made that Milewski may have abused other animals.
Stacey Laneve, assistant property manager in Milewski’s apartment building, said that a month before Molly’s death she saw his dog Macy shaking.
‘I went closer and noticed hemorrhaging in her eyes,’ she said. ‘I freaked out. To me that’s a bad sign.’
Animal services has since confiscated Macy and returned her to her registered owner, Milewski’s ex-boyfriend, who has not been named in police reports.
Laneve said she sent Milewski a text message one day after Molly’s death.
‘It think there’s more to this story,’ she wrote.
‘Do you think I’d kill a dog I just paid $1,300 for?’ he allegedly responded. ‘I would have sold it.’
Molly, the beagle puppy, Miami-Dade prosecutors say, died a vicious beating death at the hands of her owner.
But their case was delivered a significant blow Friday when a judge ruled that prosecutors cannot use as evidence the results of the medical examination of Molly’s remains. The reason: investigators illegally seized the dog’s body from a veterinarian’s clinic, said Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Yvonne Colodny.
She ruled that the beagle, which had been left at the animal clinic to await cremation, nevertheless belonged to defendant Matthew Milewski — and he never gave cops permission to take the puppy’s remains.
“It was necessary for law enforcement to obtain consent from the owner … or to obtain a lawful warrant before seizing and searching the animal,” Colodny wrote in her seven-page order.
The ruling is a setback for prosecutors, who say their necropsy revealed that Molly likely died of a severe brain injury. The dog appeared to have been shaken and slammed against a hard surface, and may have been smothered, a veterinarian concluded.
Without the necropsy results, the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office may be forced to drop the felony animal abuse charge against Milewski, the puppy’s owner. Prosecutors have not decided whether to appeal the judge’s ruling.
Milewski’s defense attorney, David Macey, hailed the decision.
“Unfortunately, Miami Beach police distorted the truth and tarnished this case,” he said. “Therefore, I applaud the judge’s decision to uphold the principles of the U.S. Constitution.”
The defense says its own expert believes the necropsy was flawed and the results grossly exaggerated.
Molly’s death received widespread publicity, with an online petition entitled “Justice for Molly” receiving over 33,000 signatures.
Authorities allege Milewski, who had just bought the new puppy in November 2011, dragged her across a parking lot of his Miami Beach condo building until she bled, beating her with a leash and slamming her into a hard surface.
A valet attendant told police he heard a “loud scream from a dog” and saw Milewski violently hitting the puppy with a leash.
Milewski, 26, denied the allegation to police, saying he was merely following training instructions from a shock collar he had bought to train Molly.
He told Miami Beach police detectives Tracy Sierra and Gus Sanchez that he took Molly back to his apartment after he noticed one of her paws bleeding. He claimed that the dog bit him as he tried to wash off her paw and he dropped the dog in the shower.
Milewski said after the dog hit the shower floor, he tried to revive her. He took the animal to the Alton Road Animal Hospital, where she was stabilized and her heart was beating normally.
But because the X-ray machine was broken, a vet suggested Milewski take the dog to a clinic in Coral Gables.
But just after he left, the dog suddenly died, Milewski claimed. He returned to the Miami Beach clinic with the body, which was placed in a freezer.
The clinic later allowed Animal Services to take the body away for the necropsy, and a Miami Beach police probe was initiated.
Prosecutors maintained that Milewski gave up his right of privacy for the dog after he gave up the body to the clinic, electing a “group cremation” in which he would not be returned the ashes. But Judge Colodny disagreed.
“Pet owners have an ongoing interest in ensuring that their final wishes for an animals’ interment be honored,” Colodny wrote. “Without a warrant, without consent, law enforcement should not be permitted to interfere with the rights and wishes of the property owner.”
Prosecutors will announce their decision on whether to appeal on Thursday.