A landscaper was charged Friday with animal cruelty, accused of injuring a woman’s dog with a weed whacker in June.
The dog’s owner, Dawn Painter, said she had hired William “Michael” DeWitt, 31, after learning about his landscaping business, DeWitt Lawn Care, on Nextdoor.com.
She said she had met with DeWitt and explained to him that her and her roommate’s three dogs — in particular, her lab mix, Moxie — are wary of strangers and that he should never enter the back yard when the dogs were out without her being present.
“I had specified to this man, ‘Do not go in my back yard — ever — if I am not here and my dogs are out,’ ” Painter said. “I made it very clear.”
She said the plan was for DeWitt to work on the front yard of her home on Trail Lake Drive on June 14 while she was at work, and then return two days later to work in the back yard, when she would be at home.
“He came, he talked to me, we made specific plans, he was very thorough with it. He was very professional,” Painter said. “ Somehow or another, when he got here on my property, he left all his professionalism somewhere else. It wasn’t here.”
Despite her warnings, Painter said, a neighbor saw Dewitt scale her locked fence — with a weed whacker in hand — to enter her back yard.
DeWitt was arrested Oct. 31 and is currently free on bail in the case. He declined to comment Thursday, referring questions to his attorney, Coby Wooten.
Wooten did not return calls seeking comment.
‘She was a mess’
Detective R. Molina believes Dewitt was attempting to get an early start on the back yard without Painter’s permission when he was confronted by Moxie, “who was protecting her property,” according to an arrest warrant affidavit.
“DeWitt used the weed eater on Moxie, causing deep lacerations across Moxie’s entire chest, belly and slightly underneath her muzzle,” Molina wrote in the affidavit.
Painter’s roommate, Emily Mathe, said she heard Moxie and her own dog, a pitbull named Sundae who at the time was pregnant, crying and went outside to find the dogs injured and DeWitt in the back yard holding a weed whacker.
Mathe said DeWitt gave her three different accounts of what happened, including that the dogs had injured each other while fighting. She said he did ultimately admit that he had struck the dogs with the weed whacker after he claimed the pitbull, followed by the lab, came after him.
“He said he hit her when it wasn’t on but when I heard the dogs crying in the back yard, I heard the weed eater on,” Mathe said.
Mathe said DeWitt quickly left the scene after hearing her talking to her ex-boyfriend about the incident on the phone, the affidavit states.
Painter, who had been alerted to the incident by her roommate, said she later came home from work to find Moxie with cuts all over her chest and stomach.
“My dog had been bleeding all over the bed,” Painter said. “She was a mess.”
Both women treated their dogs at home.
‘You better be there’
Painter said she filed a police report the day after the incident after her calls to DeWitt to find out what happened were not returned.
She also later took Moxie to two veterinarians, who concluded that the injuries would have caused the dog pain.
The affidavit states Molina attempted to interview DeWitt, but he did not show up for an agreed-upon meeting. DeWitt later told the detective that he had been advised by a family member to not talk to police without an attorney present.
Though the detective requested that he contact him once he had an attorney to give his side of the story, DeWitt has not, the affidavit states.
DeWitt is only charged in connection with the injury to Moxie, which police describe as the stronger of the two cases.
The charge is a state-jail felony punishable by up to two years incarceration and a $10,000 fine.
Painter said the incident has left her shaken.
“I had never thought of hiring a contractor to work on your property as being a threat, but now my point of view is different,” she said. “Now I’m like if somebody is going to come on your property, you better be there. I take extra precautions.”