Plea offer made in case of dog’s death
Robert J. Runnerstrom accused of 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 last May is scheduled to stand trial Wednesday in Oneida County Circuit Court, but has been offered a plea bargain in the case.
Robert J. Runnerstrom is charged with a felony count of animal mistreatment and misdemeanor counts of possessing drug paraphernalia and bail jumping. Upon conviction, the felony 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.
Runnerstrom appeared in court Friday for his final pre-trial conference with his attorney, Mary L. Roth Burns, who noted the district attorney’s office made a plea offer that she had yet to review with her client. The details of that plea offer weren’t disclosed in court, and Roth Burns declined to comment on the offer following Friday’s pre-trial conference.
In the event Runnerstrom would agree to accept the plea offer, Judge Michael H. Bloom noted a hearing would be scheduled Monday with the jury trial being cancelled.
Also at Friday’s pre-trial conference, district attorney Michael W. Schiek and Roth Burns went over various matters related to being able to hold the trial should it proceed as scheduled.
For instance, Schiek said evidence sent to the state crime lab related to a chair leg and a piece of wood, items Runnerstrom is alleged to have used as weapons, did not show signs of blood when examined. As a result, Schiek noted the prosecution will concede to the finding of no blood on those objects, instead of calling a lab analyst to testify, while a sheriff’s office deputy would also be testifying to those lab results.
“We can still introduce the weapons – what we think are weapons – but that’s as far as we can go,” Schiek said.
According to court records, on May 28 at approximately 7:04 p.m. the Oneida County dispatch center received a 911 call reporting someone had killed a dog at a residence in the town of Crescent. The caller stated that Runnerstrom, who informed the caller the dog was dead, had poisoned the dog of the caller’s boyfriend.
Law enforcement officers who were part of a react team responded to the scene when it was unknown whether Runnerstrom, who had outstanding warrants for his arrest, was still at the residence.
Court records further state Runnerstrom was taken into custody and sheriff’s deputies began to look outside for the dog when it wasn’t located in the residence. A bag that contained the dog was discovered outside under a tree. The bag started to move when a deputy grabbed it with the dog still alive inside, moving and breathing.
Deputy Nancy Reklau, who has been certified as the county’s humane officer and was also on the scene, then took the dog to Rhinelander to have emergency services done on it at Animal Health Care Center. According to a sheriff’s department report, the dog had a skull fracture and some bruising underneath the belly area.
Reklau, who testified at Runnerstrom’s preliminary hearing June 16 about the dog ultimately dying from blunt force trauma to the head, stated a wooden spindle from a chair, which was taken as evidence, had been found at the residence next to bloodied, foamy vomit.
Reklau also testified about the man who owned the dog informing her Runnerstrom had previously threatened to kill the dog, while Runnerstrom’s girlfriend stated that on the day of the incident she had gotten into an argument with Runnerstrom, who was consuming intoxicants.
In addition to being booked for animal mistreatment and bail jumping, Runnerstrom was also charged with possession of drug paraphernalia after a grinder with green vegetable material was allegedly located in his room.
Runnerstrom remains in custody in the Oneida County Jail.