After passing through the throng of more than two dozen protestors on the steps of New Haven Superior Court today, the 22-year-old Branford resident , Desmond, to death and dumping him in Madison, appeared before the judge to withdraw his . Before the judge set his next hearing for Sept. 13 back in courtroom A of the New Haven courthouse, Alex Wullaert was ordered to abstain from possession or custody of any animal during the duration of the proceedings.
At any time in the proceedings, Wullaert can reapply for accelerated rehabilitation, a special probationary measure in lieu of a criminal plea. Wullaert's attorney Richard P. Silverstein asked if the prosecution was ready to accept a plea; at this time they stated they were not.
State prosecutor Joseph LaMotta, who took time to pet pit bull Tinkerbell on the steps of the courthouse following the hearing, presented to the judge today, proof that Wullaert purchased a pitbull-boxer mix puppy around the same time he allegedly killed Desmond. He asked that Wullaert not be able to have animals in his custody for the duration of the court proceedings. The request was granted.
LaMotta’s findings stem from the diligence of officers who believe that Wullaert purchased a new puppy back in January or February of 2011. Sometime after purchasing the dog, Branford animal control believes he gave the puppy to a friend who works in Branford.
Laura Selvaggio Burban, director of the Dan Cosgrove Animal Shelter, was in attendance at the courtroom today with several other animal control officers. She said she and her team were able to prove that Wullaert brought a purchased puppy to Luv My Pet clinic in Southington on or around the time Desmond was killed. The dog named Hector received a check-up at 9 weeks old at Luv my Pet and then was given to a friend of Wullaert’s, Burban detailed.
In mid-May, Burban’s department, which falls under the jurisdiction of the , was alerted on an anonymous tip that the new owner of Wullaert’s dog was neglecting the animal. The owner, whose name was not released but who works at 38 North Harbor St., Branford, was ordered to take the dog to where it was treated for flea infestation and given a de-worming pill. At this time Wullaert does not possess a dog and the dog remains in the custody of his friend, said Burban.
The emotions were high before Wullaert appeared at the courthouse with many protestors, part of the Justice for Desmond group, chanting words of support for the now-deceased Desmond.
Wullaert’s ex-girlfriend Jessica Setkoski, who is a Milford resident, came to show her support today with hopes that Wullaert would not be granted accelerated rehabilitation. Setkoski said she lived with Wullaert for three months from June 2011 to September 2011 when he had Desmond in his possession. “He was not bad to the dog around me,” she stated but added that a red flag did go up for her regarding his behavior. “He told me it took a lot of strength to not punch me in the face,” she said.
Wullaert was charged in Feb. 2011 in .
Wullaert reportedly killed Desmond in January but the dog was not discovered until March 11 when a Madison resident came upon the carcass in the woods by a lake in that town, according to police. State Animal Control Officer Todd Curry, who works for the State of Connecticut Department of Agriculture, said the investigation began that day when the resident reported the finding to Madison Police.
Madison Police Officer Kimberly Lauria, who investigated the incident, was able to determine that Wullaert was the owner of the deceased animal due to an identifiable micro-chip that was recovered during a necropsy, police said.
“Through her further diligent investigation, Officer Lauria was able to contact and later interview Wullaert, who confessed that he choked the animal at his Branford home after it urinated on this leg and bit him,” Curry said.
Since his arrest, Wullaert has , each instance the protestors have been present.
Micah Rapini, one of the group’s leaders, said she cared for Desmond at the New Haven Animal Shelter where he was adopted. She sat in the courtroom holding hands with Setkoski during the hearing today.
In a statement prior to the hearing today, Justice for Desmond said the dog was surrendered to the New Haven Animal Shelter in January 2011. Wullaert came in to adopt the dog and the shelter was “ecstatic” to find the dog a home, they stated. What they didn’t know, the release adds, was that Desmond belonged to Wullaert’s ex-girlfriend prior to being brought to their facility.
East Haven resident Sharron Shea who runs the North Haven-based non-profit Bikers Against Animal Cruelty was in attendance at the protest and said, “Something needs to be done. He just can’t walk away – Desmond didn’t have a voice so we’re here for his voice.”
Among the many protestors in support of Desmond, including two 12-year-old boys from Hamden, Andre Corchado and Gavin Turschmann, there was one supporter of Wullaert.
A man who would not give his name said it is a mistake to kill but the court should think deeply about this case. “In this case,” he said, “we feel sorry about the dog but if we have to choose, a human being and a dog, you choose a human being.”
Wullaert said to the press back at a hearing in June, "All I want to say about the press coverage is that he bit me. He latched on to me. I have a little girl. She felt threatened."
Wullaert and his lawyer would not comment today.
Patch will keep you updated on this case as it develops.