Sheriff defends no charges against other owner in alleged dog st - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Sheriff defends no charges against other owner in alleged dog strangulation case

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 A sheriff's department is receiving negative backlash after a dog that was strangled was returned home to its owner.

The Jones County Sheriff's Department arrested 31-year-old, Dustin Nickels, of Monticello. Rickels was charged with animal abuse, animal neglect, and animal torture after he admitted to strangling a dog until it was limp.

The dog was found alive, but in bad shape. Sheriff Greg Graver said one eye was out of its socket while the other was bleeding, saying it was one of the worst cases of cruelty he's ever seen. The dog was taken to the Monticello Vet Clinic. It was then returned back to the home, to its owner, Rickel's girlfriend, Krystal Keppel.

The sheriff's department said they've seen a large, mostly negative, response about Keppel not also being charged. Graver said they've received a number of emails, Facebook messages and phone calls about the issue, and it has gone so far that even threats have been made against him.

"The information we had did not lead us to that she had committed a crime and, therefore, she has not been charged with a crime because you have to commit one to be charged with one,"  Graver said, point-blank.

According to Graver, he, along with another deputy, responded to Rickel and Keppel's home in Monticello Saturday night for a welfare check of a child. He says a Facebook post by Keppel led to someone to call the welfare check-in. He said, at arrival, they didn't know that a dog was involved, and it wasn't until Keppel told them about it first.

"If she wouldn't have been honest with us about her concern for the dog, we would have never known," Graver said.

The concern from people who believe Keppel should face charges is for not reporting a crime earlier, after a Facebook post suggested she knew something bad had happened to the dog. That same night, Keppel posted a status that her dog, Khloe, had been killed. The post accused Rickels of doing it, saying, "...Khloe is gone because you put her hands around her neck... or stomped on her throat. RIP."

"You see in her Facebook that the dog was killed. That was obviously not true. She didn't know. She had no idea. She had passed it along that she was concerned that he had harmed the dog," Graver said.

In a criminal complaint, Keppel tells a different story from the Facebook post. In it, the deputy states Keppel said she witnessed Rickels strangle the dog before taking it away, and that he wouldn't tell her where the dog was. Gravel said, through the investigation, it was determined that Keppel only knew that the dog was missing.

"She consented to us to start looking for the dog, cause she was concerned that something may have happened," he said.

Those factors leading to anger by people.  Many are people who, Graver said, come from outside of Jones County.  Graver stands by the decision.

"We did a thorough investigation. We put a good case together against the defendant, and people are angry about what they think is the truth. They have no idea what the truth is. Nobody knows any more about the case than myself, cause I was there," Graver said.

In the complaint, Rickels told officers he was trying to put the dog out of its misery because Keppel said she wanted to shoot it. 

"That was misinformation," Graver said.

Graver said he understands the emotions behind the case, but says misinformation on Facebook is making the case more difficult.

"I get this is a tough case. This is a tough case for us because we had to see it, we have to deal with it. All these people on Facebook - nobody saw what we had to see, and so we did everything that the law allows us to do and that's what the key is. I am the sole sheriff of this county. I will do everything that the law permits me to do, but I won't take one foot outside that line," he said.

Multiple times, Graver stated that Keppel didn't know something happened to the dog. He said, if she would have found it herself and discovered the injuries, then she would have been expected to report the crime.

Keppel could not be reached for comment. Neighbors say they haven't witnessed abuse of any of the animals living there, but admit to calling 9-1-1 on more than one occasion because of domestic issues at the home.

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