Jury finds Atwater man guilty in dog-beating death

rparsons@mercedsun-star.comDecember 5, 2013 

— A Merced County jury deliberated for less than an hour Thursday before convicting an Atwater man of beating a small dog to death earlier this year.

Lorenzo Segundo, 19, was found guilty in Merced County Superior Court of a single felony count of animal cruelty by a jury of six men and six women. Judge Ronald W. Hansen scheduled Segundo’s sentencing hearing for Dec. 30. Segundo faces up to three years in prison.

Thomas Min, the Merced County deputy district attorney who prosecuted the case, said he was happy with the verdict. “I thought we presented very strong evidence,” Min said outside the courtroom.

Prosecutors said Segundo beat the stray dog with a wooden fence board in the afternoon of July 9 in the 2800 block of Muir Avenue. Then, investigators said, he stuffed the animal into a plastic bucket and dumped its mangled body into a dumpster. The dog suffered suffered numerous fractures to its eye socket, skull and vertebrae, and bled from its right ear and mouth. It likely died from head trauma. “Its brain was dislodged from its skull,” Min told the jury. “It died with its eyes open and was left in a trash dumpster.”

One woman testified that the animal may have been sleeping when Segundo started beating it but was not sure.

Segundo’s attorney, Tony Green, said an appeal is likely. Green said the case came down to whether jurors believed Liliana Reyes, the prosecution’s key witness, identified the right man. “And apparently they did believe that,” Green said outside the courthouse.

Reyes testified she saw Segundo beat a Chihuahua on July 10 outside the window of her home from about five to eight feet away. Testifying through a Spanish translator, Reyes said she has known Segundo for at least three years and was certain he beat the dog to death using a loose fence board.

Green argued that Reyes may have mistakenly identified Segundo and said it was possible another man who looked like the defendant was responsible. Green said he did not believe Reyes was lying, but that she was “not remembering things correctly.”

Segundo took the stand Thursday afternoon and testified that people frequently confuse him with his older brother, Juan, who lives closer to the scene of the crime.

Min called the argument “ridiculous” and noted that the defense never produced any photographs of Juan Segundo or had him come to court to demonstrate any similarities in appearances. “He doesn’t look anything like his brother,” Min concluded. “And he has the gall to try and throw his brother under the bus. What a coward.”

Under questioning from Min, Segundo appeared combative and irritated on the witness stand. Min asked whether Segundo struggles with anger, specifically asking him if he was getting upset with the questions. “It bothers me, but it doesn’t get me angry,” Segundo responded. “I don’t get mad easily.”

Segundo said he could not remember any details about the day in question up until the police came to his apartment complex. He said he had no idea where he was about the time of the attack on the dog. He also said he could not remember whether he worked the night before or the names of any of his co-workers or supervisors.

Green told jurors his client was telling the truth. “You’d think if he was going to come in here and lie to you, you’d think he’d come up with a better story,” Green said.

But Min noted that the physical evidence in the case fits with every detail of Reyes’ testimony. “The evidence in this case is overwhelming that this person is guilty,” Min said.

The prosecutor asked the judge to have Segundo booked at the Merced County Jail to await sentencing because of the “serious nature of the charge.” However, the judge opted to let Segundo remain free pending sentencing, noting the defendant has no prior criminal convictions and has made it to all of his court appearances.

Reporter Rob Parsons can be reached at rparsons@mercedsun-star.com or (209) 385-2482.

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