Neighbor suspected of killing Niles boy’s pet

Published 10:25 am Tuesday, December 14, 2004

By By SPIROS GALLOS / Niles Daily Star
NILES - Birthday cards wishing Caleb Carpenter a happy 14th birthday line the china cabinet in the kitchen of his family's Niles home.
But all the birthday presents in the world couldn't possibly replace his best friend.
Caleb lost his Buddy when a neighbor allegedly led one of his family's two dogs out to his property, where he shot and killed the animal.
Michigan State Police arrested the neighbor, suspected of killing the Carpenter's dog Monday.
Police began their investigation Thursday, when they received a call the family's dog had been slain.
Arraignment of the suspect is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. today in a Berrien County Fifth District Court in Niles. The suspect is being arraigned on charges of larceny and animal cruelty, the Carpenters said.
Michigan State Police would not release the name of the suspect on Monday because he was yet to be arraigned. They would provide no other information about the case.
Police arrested the suspect after he allegedly confessed to trespassing on the Carpenter's property in the late evening hours of Dec. 8, taking Buddy from his kennel, and leading him to a wooded area where the suspect tied Buddy to a tree and shot him several times with a shotgun.
But for Caleb and the rest of his family, the reality that Buddy, the two and one-half year old dog whom the Carpenters thought of as more of a family member than a pet, is gone forever still has not set in.
The Carpenters first noticed Buddy was missing Dec. 8 when Becky, Caleb's mother, arrived home around midnight and Bear, Buddy's brother, met her at her van.
Knowing the dogs should be locked in the kennel behind the family's house and wondering where Buddy was, Becky called out for him, but got no response.
Becky ran to the house to wake her husband, Dennis, and told him the dogs weren't in the kennel and something was wrong.
When the couple went to investigate the kennel, they discovered the gate on the north side of the kennel, facing away from their house, was open. The couple searched for Buddy until 3 a.m. before locking Bear in the kennel for the night and going to bed.
The morning of Dec. 9, after Caleb had gone to school, Dennis took Bear out and searched for Buddy. Dennis and Bear walked west of the family's property toward the suspect's property. When they reached the property line, Bear stopped and wouldn't continue in the neighboring property.
Leaving Bear at the property line, Dennis continued westbound into the neighbor's property. After walking several hundred yards, Dennis said he found Buddy dead with gun shot wounds on his left side.
After discovering Buddy, Dennis returned to the house and contacted the Michigan State Police.
Trooper Christopher Peea met with Dennis and Becky before making contact with the suspect sometime Friday or Saturday, Dennis said.
Saturday morning, Peea brought shotgun shells he had obtained from the suspect over to the Carpenter's house. It was also on Saturday when Peea informed the Carpenters of the suspect's confession.
Monday, Peea brought over a collar that belonged to Buddy, which the suspect allegedly had ordered his girlfriend to destroy. The collar was ripped, as if it had been torn from Buddy's neck, Becky said.
After tying Buddy to a tree, the suspect said he placed the shotgun at the back of Buddy's head and shot the dog. After Buddy had been shot, the suspect reloaded the shotgun and shot Buddy again, the second time, striking Buddy in his left side.
Through the entire case, the Carpenters said they were impressed with Peea's dedication to finding out how Buddy had died.
In a police report released by the Michigan State Police this morning, the suspect was reported to have said he killed Buddy after discovering a dead kitten in his front yard either on Dec. 6 or 7.
The suspect believed Buddy to be responsible for the death because he allegedly saw Buddy attack and kill two of his barn kittens approximately four to five months ago.
The Carpenters find it hard to believe that Buddy, or his sibling Bear, could ever be capable of harming or killing the kittens.
Dennis said Buddy was so gentle, he imagined it was as if the suspect were "leading a lamb to slaughter," when he led Buddy to his property.
But no matter what outcome comes of the judicial process and what punishment the suspect receives, Becky said it won't change the fact Buddy is gone.