A Manahawkin man prosecutors say beat a dog so bad it later died in May of 2016 is indicted on one count of Animal Cruelty in the 3rd degree.

Joseph J. Russo, 24, is accused of causing serious bodily injury and death to a Pomeranian dog named “Diesel” in Stafford Township.

The Grand Jurors of the State of New Jersey, in and for the County of Ocean, upon their oaths say he did purposely, knowingly, or recklessly torment, torture, maim, unnecessarily or cruelly beat, cruelly abuse or needlessly mutilate a companion dog, by the name of "Diesel", a living animal, causing the said dog to suffer serious bodily injury and die as a result of said actions by Russo, contrary to the provisions of N.J.S.A. 4:22-17c(l ), and against the peace of this State, the Government and dignity of the same, according to the Ocean County Prosecutors Office.

The animal cruelty incident was reported back on May 30, 2016, around 1 am, to Stafford Police when Diesel’s owner alleged that pomeranian was left in a room she had rented at Russo's home just five-days earlier.

When she returned to the home a few hours later, Russo told her that Diesel had a seizure and died.

Not believing Russo’s story to be true, Diesel’s owner contacted Stafford Police.

The Ocean County Prosecutors Office, Stafford Township PD, NJSPCA and Stafford Township Animal Control Police conducted the subsequent investigation.

In August of 2017, having received the necropsy report and having completed witness interviews, NJSPCA Det. Sgt. Larry Donato charged Russo with third degree animal cruelty.

The public is reminded that criminal charges are merely accusations and that the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.              

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