A New Jersey man with an apparent wild reputation is accused of shooting and killing a beloved therapy dog that belonged to his neighbor, a Vietnam veteran.
William Stroemel, 64, of Maple Shade, is “a heavy equipment operator who is also known as Wild Willie,” the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office said in a press release Thursday.
What he is accused of doing, though, is probably more tragic and sick than wild.
Stroemel’s neighbors called police on Sept. 18 after their poodle mix Toby “had been discovered howling in pain by a neighbor the previous day,” according to the press release.
Toby’s owner, Bob Cook, told NBC Philadelphia, “I saw him laying in the street. I picked him up with my bum leg and all and I ran back to the house. I said we had to get him to the vet.”
Cook is a Vietnam vet who got Toby to help with his PTSD and depression.
He took Toby to the vet, who determined that he had been shot in the head. The dog was euthanized a day later as a result of the injury.
A necropsy performed on Wednesday gave more insight into Toby’s death. During that process, a pellet was removed from Toby’s head. That pellet is “connected to an air rifle in Stroemel’s possession at the time of the shooting,” authorities allege.
Stroemel was initially charged with weapons offenses when a .22 caliber pistol was found during a search at his home. Stroemel has a prior felony conviction dating back to 1998, according to online records. He is not supposed to own any firearms. The discovery of the pellet, however, led to more elevated charges, including animal cruelty and concealing evidence.
“The investigation, which was conducted by the Maple Shade Police Department, revealed that Stroemel shot Toby with the air rifle and then gave the gun to an acquaintance and asked him to hold it for him,” the prosecutor’s office states. “Toby was not believed to be on Stroemel’s property when he was shot."
It’s not clear if Stroemel has a lawyer who can speak on his behalf at this time. While he is awaiting a detention hearing, Cook, his family and neighbors are mourning the loss of Toby.
"He never hurt anybody," neighbor Patrice Weil told NBC Philadelphia. "He was six pounds and for this scumbag, I'm glad he's in jail and I hope he rots there."
She went on to call Stroemel a “loner” who is “very scary."
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