One of the two teens accused of setting a Jack Russell terrier on fire said Monday that he had nothing to do with it and said he tried to stop the other suspect – his uncle – from carrying out the crime.
In a brief telephone interview from the Erie County Holding Center, Diondre L. Brown, 17, told The Buffalo News that Adell Zeigler, 19, was entirely responsible for taking the puppy into the backyard of a drug house at about 4:45 p.m. Oct. 29 and trying to burn it to death.
“I was telling him to stop. Why do you have to kill the dog?” Brown said.
According to felony animal cruelty charges placed against Zeigler and Brown by investigating Ferry-Fillmore District Detectives Charles Militello and Marvin Sanford, both teens tortured the dog in the weeks leading up to the fire, then accused each other of setting the dog ablaze.
The charges stated that the two teenagers “did torture a Jack Russell terrier” while in the lower apartment of a home on Herman Street “by means of punching, kicking and throwing the puppy against the walls of the apartment.” When they doused it with lighter fluid, they both laughed, Zeigler told Militello and Sanford.
Asked by The News why his uncle told police Brown was responsible for setting the dog on fire, Brown said, “Because he’s already got felony [convictions] and doesn’t want that kind of [prison] time on him.”
In trying to come up with a motive, the detectives stated in their complaint that the two teens were involved in some kind of disagreement with the dog’s owner, who lived on the second floor of the drug house, and that they decided to get even with him by burning the dog. Brown denied that.
The puppy, named “Phoenix,” continues to make progress in its recovery, Dr. Miguel Diaz, a veterinarian at Buffalo Small Animal Hospital, said Monday. A decision will probably be made next week, Diaz said, on when to perform another skin graft. More than 50 percent of the dog’s body was burned in the attack.
Zeigler was released July 6 from a juvenile detention center in Otisville and directed by state parole officials to report to Grace House, a complex of homes on the 1900 block of Bailey Avenue for ex-convicts. But when he arrived he refused to cooperate and immediately left, according to the Rev. Terry J. King, executive director of Saving Grace Ministries, which operates the residence.
“He [Zeigler] is right where he needs to be right now to get professional help to get his life under control before this escalates and there are more innocent victims,” King said.
Zeigler, who is being held without bail at the Erie County Holding Center, appeared briefly Monday in Buffalo City Court, but Judge Debra Givens postponed further proceedings until 9:30 a.m. Friday because he did not have a lawyer. Brown also was in court, represented by attorney Andrew C. LoTempio, who waived his client’s right to a felony hearing. Outside court, LoTempio said his client suffers from post-traumatic stress, referring to a quadruple homicide he witnessed in 2005 that claimed the lives of his mother, an uncle and two acquaintances at the Brown family’s home.
“He has been in and out of group homes … a sad case,” LoTempio said.