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Animal cruelty charge dropped against dead pit bull’s owner

A criminal case against a Las Vegas man who was charged with killing a pit bull found with its muzzle taped shut in July 2020 has been dismissed.

Clark County Chief Deputy District Attorney John Jones said there was not enough evidence to support a prosecution of Leonel Torres, 31, in the death of his family’s pit bull, named Cali, on July 23 in the 4400 block of Vegas Valley Drive. Clark County animal control officers found the dog “with red tape wrapped around its muzzle” near a trash bin, Las Vegas police initially wrote in an arrest report for Torres.

Torres told police that the dog was his and that it had gone missing the night before after escaping from his backyard. Police then inspected his yard but could not identify a spot where the dog could have feasibly escaped, according to the arrest warrant. Police also claimed that Torres failed a polygraph, and a detective said police found red duct tape in a shed at Torres’ home. He was charged with felony malicious torture, maiming or killing of an animal.

Defense attorney Michael D. Pariente said police “jumped to conclusions” in the case and that his client is innocent. He said the dog could have easily escaped from the family’s backyard on its own by jumping a wall. Pariente said he also learned from witnesses that the dog was friendly with everyone, and that he believed neighbors in a dispute with Torres were likely responsible for the crime.

“We think they (neighbors) did this as a retaliation against my client because my client was complaining about loud music and called the police several times to file complaints,” Pariente said. “After Cali the dog was killed, the neighbors stopped playing their music really loudly, then they moved out.”

Jones, the assistant district attorney, said the case was dismissed on Tuesday.

“We spoke with some witnesses, neighbors, and they refuted some of the points in the declaration of arrest,” Jones said. “It raised questions in my mind about whether I would be able to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Contact Glenn Puit by email at gpuit@reviewjournal.com. Follow @GlennatRJ on Twitter.

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