Christopher Anthony Simpson, 21, is charged with both felony and misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty in the beating death of Axel.
WILMINGTON — A Leland man accused in the Christmas Day beating death of a rescue puppy was arrested for a second time in the case during his first appearance in New Hanover County District Court on Tuesday.
Christopher Anthony Simpson, 21, who was arrested Monday and posted a $2,500 bail for his release, was led from the courtroom by deputies after Judge Lindsey McKee increased his bond to $100,000. The increase was at the request of the prosecution who said Simpson and his girlfriend, Alyssa Croom, 22, told Croom’s family they planned to flee to Florida to escape the charges in the beating death of Axel, a Labrador retriever. The state also asked that Simpson’s German shepherd be removed from his custody.
“Your honor, (Simpson) is a danger and we believe he is going to flee,” said Assistant District attorney Christa Lawler.
When asked if he wanted to address bond, Simpson said, “I want to apologize for my actions first and — number two — we have already gotten rid of my dog.” [note how he refers to his dog, “gotten rid of”]
Simpson is charged with both felony and misdemeanor animal abuse. If convicted he faces up to 39 months in prison.
According to New Hanover County Sheriff’s Lt. Jerry Brewer, on Dec. 25 — while his girlfriend and her family went to a relative’s for dinner — Simpson was left at the Croom home with the 6-month-old puppy, which had been adopted Dec. 1 by Croom’s parents, Tammy and Herbie Croom. Brewer said that Alyssa Croom left the gathering early after Simpson called and told her the puppy peed on his foot and bit him when he “went to hit it.” [it! animals are not IT’s]
Croom’s parents followed shortly after, and as they approached their house they saw Simpson and Croom driving away, Brewer said. According to Tammy Croom, the family immediately noticed the dog was missing and searched the neighborhood for it, then an hour later Alyssa Croom called her brother to say Simpson accidentally killed the dog and where to find him. The puppy’s body was found stuffed between a boat trailer and the dog pen in the backyard, Tammy Croom said.
Brewer said Alyssa Croom told her father that Simpson “didn’t know his own strength,” when he punched the dog, killing it.
During the hearing, Deputy J. Covil, who works in the New Hanover County Animal Services Unit, said the dog’s injuries were extensive. The veterinarian who performed the necropsy said Axel was missing several teeth, had bruising under his tongue, and his liver was so severely lacerated it looked like “ground hamburger,” Covil said in court.
“He said the cause of death was due to hemorrhage — massive acute blood loss from the fractured liver — and secondary to blunt force trauma which is either from kicking and/or punching the dog,” Covil said.
As Simpson was handcuffed and led away by deputies, Alyssa Croom tearfully fled the courtroom slamming the door as she exited. The noise prompted McKee to order bailiffs to bring her back and McKee admonished Croom about her behavior. Once in the lobby, Croom got into a verbal exchange with a woman who scolded her, saying Croom was equally responsible for the puppy’s death.
“Why are you yelling at me,” Croom cried, before addressing her boyfriend’s arrest.
“This isn’t fair. He does not deserve this,” she wept.
She was about to give the media her side of the story when a Simpson family member intervened saying Simpson’s attorney doesn’t want them to speak and Croom quickly left in the elevator.
Tammy Croom said she wasn’t surprised by her daughter’s support of Simpson, and that she believed her child was afraid of him. She said two years ago Simpson was arrested for assaulting Alyssa when she was pregnant. Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office warrants show that on July 6, 2015, Simpson was charged with assault on a female and battery on an unborn child for headbutting Croom. Another warrant charged him with animal cruelty for throwing and injuring a 3-month old kitten. The charges were later dismissed when Croom wouldn’t cooperate with officials. Croom gave birth to the couple’s daughter six days later, vital records show.
Tammy Croom said that her pursuit of charges against Simpson [and her daughter staying with and defending the puppy killing boyfriend] had caused a rift in the family. She said she hasn’t seen her daughter or granddaughter since this all happened and it’s frightening.
“If he can do this kind of damage to a pet he can do this damage to a human being,” she said.