Dog's Killer Sentenced To Community Service

June 10, 2000
By Charlie Goodyear, Chronicle Staff Writer


2000-06-10 04:00:00 PST MARTINEZ -- A Martinez man convicted of killing a dog -- the beloved pet of a boy dying from cancer -- was sentenced yesterday on misdemeanor charges and ordered to perform community service with animal rights groups.

Timothy Mulgrew, who has no criminal record and is a volunteer firefighter, avoided more serious felony charges after Contra Costa Superior Court Judge Richard Arnason noted "the most important factor at this juncture is the individual."

Mulgrew, 36, was convicted earlier this year of shooting to death Cole, an 18-month-old Labrador retriever. Mulgrew said the dog had broken into his chicken coop and growled at his wife and children.

Cole had been rescued from the pound by 9-year-old Teddy Dempster, who grew to love the dog before dying from cancer in 1998. Cole became a highly valued pet to the Dempster family after Teddy died, and they were shocked when the dog returned home one day last year, bleeding from three bullet wounds.

"He was bleeding and dying and convulsing. It was horrible," said Patricia Dempster, Teddy's mother, in remarks yesterday at Mulgrew's sentencing. "My family went through way too much to have go through what we went through with Cole. It's unforgiveable."

Cole's death galvanized the Martinez community with more than 17,000 residents signing a petition calling for a tough sentence for Mulgrew. Leroy Moyer, director of the animal rights group Voices for Pets, urged Arnason "not to let Mr. Mulgrew walk away without seeing the inside of a jail cell."

Prosecutor Stacey Grassini noted that Mulgrew intentionally shot Cole three times and heard the dog whimper after the first bullet.

"The dog started to run away and he decided to fire two more times," Grassini said.

Mulgrew, dressed in a suit and tie, kept his composure throughout the hearing but declined to address the judge, telling his attorney, Bill Glass, he could not speak.

But Glass offered a ringing defense of his client, saying Mulgrew had been faced with a "living hell" the past year as animal rights activists insulted him in court and pasted wanted posters with his picture in county pet stores.

Mulgrew is the chief financial officer of the California Autism Foundation and a father who is planning to adopt a child placed in his home for foster care.

"It's part of him to give and help others," Glass said. "This is a case in which, and a defendant for which, a misdemeanor is an appropriate result."

In the end, Arnason agreed but not without saying the defendant "exercised extremely poor judgment" in a case that "tugs at the heart.

"I suggest to you, sir, that you sit down and express your sorrow to the victim's family," the judge added.

Mulgrew was sentenced to two years of probation and 90 days in jail, which he may complete through a jail work program or electronic home detention. In addition, he must pay restitution to the Dempsters in an amount to be determined by the probation department, and he will perform 200 hours of community service.

Arnason recommended that Mulgrew work off those hours at either the Lindsay Wildlife Museum or the Animal Rescue Foundation in Walnut Creek.

Outside the courtroom, Dempster called the decision fair. But asked if she would accept a personal apology from Mulgrew, she said, "I don't want him anywhere near me."