Grand Junction Man Indicted In Dog Dragging Death

Suspect's Sister Also Indicted For Covering It Up

A federal grand jury has indicted Steven Clay Romero, 37, of Grand Junction, and his sister, Melissa Marie Lockhart, 32, of Fruita, on charges related to the dragging death of "Buddy the Dog" and a subsequent cover up.

The indictment says that between Dec. 29 and 30, Romero "did knowingly torture, needlessly mutilate, and needlessly kill an animal, that is, “Buddy” the dog, by dragging the dog behind a vehicle with a rope tied to the dog’s neck until the dog was dead." Click here to read the full indictment .

Buddy, a German shepherd-blue heeler mix, died of strangulation and was dumped on the snowy shoulder of a roadside at the Colorado National Monument. Tracks left in the snow told the story: The tracks initially showed the dog walking, then running and then being dragged up the steep and winding road, officials have said. Buddy was dragged for about 2 miles.

Video surveillance from the west entrance station of the Monument showed a double-cab pickup truck entering the Monument at 2:18 a.m. Dec. 30, with a dog in the bed of the truck, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. Cameras in the outbound lane showed the same truck leaving the Monument at 2:30 a.m. without the dog.

After reviewing the video footage of the truck, Rangers visited Romero’s residence, where they observed paw prints in the snow of the front yard, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. One witness said he saw Romero leave the residence with the dog, then return later without it. A second witness said that Romero stated that he was going to kill the dog. A consensual search of the residence found rope in the garage of the home, which matched the rope tied around the dog’s neck.

The dog's death sparked a huge outcry that included an online petition on Facebook called "Demand Justice For Buddy." The petition has been signed by more than 100,000 people from more than 100 countries. Administrators of the Facebook page said they will present the petition to federal prosecutors on Wednesday.

Romero is being held in federal custody and is scheduled for a court appearance Wednesday in Grand Junction.

The indictment also alleges that Romero's sister, Lockhart, had knowledge that a felony crime had been committed by Romero but concealed it "by making false statements to law enforcement" and by failing to report the crime. A warrant has been issued for her arrest.

Police have said Lockhart stole Buddy from the bed of a pickup truck a day before the dog was killed. Buddy and another dog were taken in downtown Delta. A witness to the double dognapping wrote down Lockhart's license plate number, police have said. Lockhart reportedly has said she took Buddy because she thought the dog had been abandoned.

Romero is charged with one count of aggravated animal cruelty. If convicted he faces not more than three years in federal prison, and up to a $100,000 fine, or both. Melissa Marie Lockhart is charged with misprision of a felony. If convicted she faces not more than three years in federal prison, and up to a $250,000 fine, or both. Lockhart also faces state charges of dog theft in Delta, Colo.