The dog was beaten to death in North Branch, Minn. Her owners say they plan to take legal action against the children’s parents.
Chao Xiong, Star Tribune
The Darwins picked out Bella when she was three days old, making trips up to Askov, Minn., to visit and photograph the puppy they hoped to bring to their home in North Branch.
She arrived April 29, a slightly under 1-pound miniature pinscher that would crawl up into the crook of their necks, curl up and fall asleep.
She quickly became part of the family, but their time together ended June 12 when three neighborhood boys, two 6-year-olds and an 8-year-old, apparently beat her to death. Amy Darwin said it looked like they had used a stick and a rock slightly smaller than a cantaloupe. Bella, who had grown to about 3 pounds, suffered a broken leg and was pronounced brain dead and put on a ventilator that afternoon, Darwin said. The family decided to disconnect the ventilator, and she died about an hour later.
“I was just devastated,” Darwin said. “It was awful. And to know that they were 6 and 8, it was just awful. It’s scary that they are capable of this.”
Bella was normally kept indoors in a kennel when the Darwins left the house, but Monday they decided to tie her in the back yard behind a 5-foot privacy fence, Darwin said.
Piecing events together
The family of four, including 3- and 7-year-old sisters, left for the grocery store about 1:30 p.m. When they returned about two hours later, Bella was lying in her bed unresponsive. Darwin said she picked up Bella’s head and it dropped back down. Bella struggled to breathe.
While they waited at the veterinarian’s office, Darwin said, they started piecing together what happened. A key piece of evidence: A bicycle glove that belonged to a neighborhood boy was found in their back yard, Darwin said.
The police were called, and the alleged perpetrators were identified. One of the 6-year-old boys went to the Darwins’ house that night to apologize. His father, who did not want to be identified, said that he is crushed about what happened and that his son knows that what he did was wrong although he doesn’t fully comprehend the impact. The father doesn’t dispute what happened but offered his condolences and financial restitution for his son’s role.
The other 6-year-old boy’s mother, who also did not want to be identified, said her son was there but was not involved in the beating. Both boys’ parents said that their children have been grounded.
Case referred to county
Police said they had referred the case to Chisago County Attorney Katherine Johnson, said she could not talk specifically about the case because it involves juveniles. She said the consequences for juveniles can range from counseling to criminal charges.
The Darwins said they have never had problems with the boys before and don’t know why their dog was targeted.
The incident has shaken the Darwins so much that they put their house up for sale the day after Bella died, Amy Darwin said. They plan to stay in North Branch.
“We don’t want our kids to live down the street from people like that,” she said. “They [the boys] need some help.”
Family plans legal action
They also plan to take legal action in small claims court or on the TV show “The People’s Court.” The Darwins contacted the show and have been told there is interest in their case. If nothing else, the boys should get community service, Darwin said.
“She was a big part of our family,” she said. “It’s a big void.”