It's not often that a judge tells prosecutors that a plea deal is too generous and they need to start over.
But that's what happened in the case of eighteen-year-old Joseph Nelson. And given the horrific acts of mutilation Nelson is said to have committed against his mother's dog, this reaction is understandable.
Last August in Grand Junction, according to an arrest affidavit in the case, Nelson became angry and began striking DeMayo, a twenty-pound mixed-breed dog belonging to his mom. A witness told police Nelson began swinging DeMayo from his leash before smacking the dog's head on the ground and kicking him over and over again.
The witness said that when he tried to stop these assaults, Nelson attacked him. He eventually split, after reportedly seeing Nelson dragging DeMayo near his house.
The dog was later found hanging from a pedestrian bridge spanning a stretch of the Colorado River. Police say his internal organs and one eyeball were missing from his corpse.
Nelson, described by his mother as a meth user, was arrested in November, and in April, he pleaded guilty to aggravated cruelty to animals in a deal that called for probation -- a prospect that shocked Hands 4 Paws, a pet advocacy organization. The group started a Change.org petition addressed to District Judge Richard T. Gurley requesting "no probation, maximum sentence."
The petition had a goal of 5,000 signatures, and it easily exceeded that number. At the time the petition closed, 5,835 people had added their names. Here are some examples of comments left on the page:
If you don't do something about this mental monster now,rest assured he will do something horrific to a woman/child or other human being, Stop him NOW!!
I am a teacher. Hate begets hate. Soon enough he will do this to a human.... sad but true...
This is CLEARLY a sign of someone who is a sociopath.
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In the end, Judge Gurley agreed, telling prosecutors to come up with an agreement that gave him more options. And now, the Mesa County District Attorney's Office has done so. The result of Nelson's latest guilty plea is likely to be jail time, not probation, when he's sentenced next month.
Here's a larger look at Nelson's mug shot.
More from our News archive: "Anthony Ortolani wants dog he left on a mountain to go to one of her rescuers."