A Las Vegas man has been charged with killing a pit bull found with its muzzle taped shut in July 2020, but the man’s defense attorney said his client is innocent.
Leonel Torres, 30, was booked at the Clark County Detention Center on Monday on a felony charge of malicious torture, maiming or killing of an animal. A Las Vegas police document related to his March 24 arrest indicated that the charge stems from the discovery of the pit bull, named Cali, on July 23 in the 4400 block of Vegas Valley Drive by Clark County animal control officers.
Torres’ defense attorney, Michael D. Pariente, said Wednesday that the “charges are completely unfounded.”
“Leonel and his family loved their dog Cali,” Pariente said.
Police said Cali was found “with red tape wrapped around its muzzle” near a trash bin, police wrote in the document.
Officers canvassed the area and called in a detective who specializes in animal cruelty cases. Police then made contact with Torres, who told police that the dog was his and said 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 document.
Torres was given a polygraph and asked whether he put the red tape on Cali’s muzzle. He denied it. Police wrote that the polygraph results indicated “deception.” Torres then declined to speak further with police.
“From my experience investigating animal cruelty cases, I know that the owner is oftentimes the abuser,” police wrote in the document. “In this case, Cali was a healthy pit bull weighing over 56 pounds. It is very hard for a stranger to catch a canine running at large in a neighborhood. Even if a canine is captured, canines will fight a person, especially a stranger, that is attempting to cover their muzzle, as this causes them to struggle to breath and cool themselves.”
Police then obtained a search warrant for the home of Torres. In a padlocked shed, they found red duct tape “that matched the color, texture and size of the tape wrapped around the muzzle of Cali.” A forensic scientist also examined the duct tape and compared it to the tape on the dog’s muzzle, noting that the two were consistent with one another.
Torres’ defense attorney noted that the polygraph was performed by police and not a neutral polygraph examiner.
“Additionally, and most importantly, use of polygraph examination results is not permitted in court because polygraphs are not reliable,” Pariente said. “LVMPD’s release of so-called ‘polygraph results’ is a shameful, underhanded and despicable attempt to taint a potential Las Vegas jury against Leonel and deprive him of a fair trial.”
Torres is currently out of custody. He is scheduled to appear in Las Vegas Justice Court on May 5.