A New Jersey woman is accused of beating her family’s dog to death with a shovel and a claw hammer and then bragging about it.
Michelle Wankoff, 19, of Hightstown, was charged with third-degree animal cruelty, fourth-degree animal cruelty, fourth-degree tampering with evidence, third-degree possession of weapons for an unlawful purpose and fourth-degree unlawful possession of weapons, the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office said in a press release.
Wankoff was held on $25,000 bail.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Police Investigated After a Tipster Said Wankoff Was Bragging About Killing the Dog
The Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office said Wankoff bragged about killing her dog, and one of the people who heard about it tipped off investigators, leading to the investigation and Wankoff’s arrest.
Wankoff was arrested last week, police said. The dog, a 9-year-old mixed breed named Chuck, was killed on or about July 21.
2. She Beat the Dog to Death After Trying Repeatedly to Poison It, Cops Say
Prosecutors said Wankoff tried to poison Chuck to death with various medications, but the dog did not die.
“When that failed, she hit the animal repeatedly about the head with a shovel and claw hammer until he died,” prosecutors said.
A necropsy is being conducted to determine Chuck’s cause of death, the prosecutor’s office said.
3. She Kept Chuck’s Dead Body in a Fridge for Days, Cops Say
Police said Wankoff kept Chuck’s body inside a small refrigerator inside her bedroom for a few days, and then buried it in a shallow grave.
Hightstown Police and the New Jersey SPCA Police found the dog in the woods near Wankoff’s home on July 25, the prosecutor’s office said.
4. An Accomplice Was Charged With Helping Her Bury the Dog
Police have also arrested an accomplice who they say helped Wankoff bury the dog in the grave near her home.
Tyler Phernamucq, also 19, of Hamilton, New Jersey, was charged with tampering with evidence, the prosecutor’s office said.
5. She Faces 3 to 5 Years in Prison on the Weapons Charges
According to the New Jersey SPCA website, a person found guilty of third-degree animal cruelty faces up to six months in prison and a fine of between $250 to $1,000, as well as community service.
The third-degree possession of weapons for an unlawful purpose charge carries the most severe penalty among the charges against her, between three to five years in prison. The fourth-degree unlawful possession of weapons charge carries a potential sentence of up to 18 months in prison.
Tampering with evidence carries a potential prison sentence of up to 18 months in prison.
Animal abuse can be reported to the New Jersey SPCA here.