Rhinelander-area man bound over for trial in dog’s death
Robert J. Runnerstrom charged with animal mistreatment
BY KEVIN BONESKE
A 29-year-old Rhinelander-area man accused of mistreating a dog in a cruel manner that caused the animal’s death has been bound over for trial in Oneida County Circuit Court.
Robert J. Runnerstrom appeared in court Friday for a preliminary hearing on a felony count of animal mistreatment. Upon conviction, that charge carries a maximum possible penalty of 18 months of initial confinement in prison, followed by two years of extended supervision, and/or a $10,000 fine.
Oneida County assistant district attorney Jillian Pfeifer called only one witness to testify at the preliminary hearing, sheriff’s deputy Nancy Reklau, who has been certified as the county’s humane officer and was one of the officers who responded to a 911 call the evening of May 28 when the county’s dispatch center received a report about someone killing a dog at a residence in the town of Crescent.
“The dog was located outside underneath a tree in a reusable grocery bag,” Reklau said.
Upon discovering the dog was barely breathing, had discharge coming from its mouth and had its right eye protruding from its head along with a head injury, Reklau said she immediately took the dog to a veterinarian for emergency care.
According to a sheriff’s department report, the dog had been taken to Animal Health Care Center in Rhinelander and was found to have sustained a skull fracture and some bruising underneath the belly area.
Reklau said the dog ultimately died from blunt force trauma to the head.
After interviewing the man whose dog died and his girlfriend, Reklau said they told her they received a call from Runnerstrom earlier in the evening of the incident stating the dog named “Bambi” had gotten into some poison and died.
“They went to the residence, did not observe Bambi, asked Robert where Bambi was, Robert stated that Bambi had left, took off out the back door,” Reklau said. “I advised them where we had found Bambi and the condition that we had found Bambi.”
Though they stated Runnerstrom informed them he was cleaning a bathroom where a bottle of toilet bowl cleaner was found on the floor, Reklau said “the bathroom has not been cleaned for a very, very long time.”
Reklau said the man who owned the dog also informed her Runnerstrom had threatened to kill the dog four days beforehand, while Runnerstrom’s girlfriend stated that on the day of the incident she had gotten into an argument with Runnerstrom, who was consuming intoxicants.
When asked by Pfeifer about evidence related to blunt force trauma, Reklau said a spindle from a chair was found next to bloodied, foamy vomit.
“Was there a suggestion that that (spindle) may have possibly been used to cause blunt force trauma?” Pfeifer asked.
“Yes,” Reklau replied.
In cross-examination from Runnerstrom’s attorney, public defender Mary Roth Burns, Reklau said all the toxicology reports are not back from the lab to be able state whether or not the dog was poisoned.
When Burns asked about a media report stating the dog had been left in a plastic bag, Reklau said the dog was left in a white, reusable grocery bag, in which the dog moved as soon as the bag had been moved.
As to the wooden spindle Reklau testified might have been used to strike the dog, Reklau said that item was taken into evidence, but she didn’t know the results of any testing that may have been made on it.
Judge Michael H. Bloom said he bound Runnerstrom over for trial because Reklau’s “testimony and reasonable inferences therefrom are sufficient to establish that there’s probable cause that a felony offense was committed by this defendant.”
Runnerstrom has also been charged with misdemeanor counts of possessing drug paraphernalia and bail jumping. In addition to the warrants that had been out for his arrest, a grinder with green vegetable material was allegedly located in his room when he was taken into custody.
Runnerstrom, who remains in the Oneida County Jail on a $2,500 cash bond, is scheduled back in court June 26 for an arraignment.