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After pleading guilty to animal abuse, Colorado man sentenced to 12 years in prison

Posted at 2:07 PM, Nov 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-18 18:29:29-05

BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. – A Boulder County man accused of abusing his girlfriend's cats and dog was sentenced to prison after pleading guilty to a charge of cruelty to animals.

Nathaniel Stark, 27, was sentenced to 12 years in the Department of Corrections on Friday after pleading guilty to aggravated cruelty to animals on May 13. At the same time, he also pleaded guilty to being a sex offender and failing to verify his location, according to the 20th Judicial District Attorney's Office.

The Lafayette Police Department said Stark, who is designated as a sexually violent predator, moved to Lafayette in 2020. The district attorney's office said he was living in Longmont when the crimes were committed.

He had originally been sentenced on Jan. 5, 2018 to 10 years of sex offender intensive supervision probation, according to the district attorney's office. He was released from a halfway house in August 2019.

According to his arrest affidavit, he moved in with his long-time, on-and-off girlfriend in Longmont. She had two cats, Toby, 11, and Xander, 6, and a 10-year-old dog.

On Oct. 18, 2019, the girlfriend took Xander to the vet for a swollen back. He was released with medication after the vet found bruising and two small scabbed puncture wounds.

At the end of the month, the girlfriend brought Xander back to the vet. The cat was very lethargic, had different-sized pupils, couldn't get up and wouldn't eat or drink, according to the affidavit. Stark had told her that the dog had attacked Xander. The vet's report did not match Stark's account. The cat was again released with medication.

According to the affidavit, in early November Stark walked into the kitchen and stepped on the other cat, Toby. The couple did not take him to the vet and he died on Nov. 7. The girlfriend said she assumed Toby died of his injuries from being stepped up.

On Nov. 15, the girlfriend took Xander to the vet for a cut on his face. She had also noticed his nails had been ripped or cut out of his hind paws, according to the affidavit. Stark had told her Xander may have been cut from a blender blade. The vet's report found the nails were torn to varying degrees, which was painful for the cat. The vet also found soft tissue swelling on the left base of the skull, according to the affidavit. He was released with medication.

On Nov. 25, Stark took the cat to the vet again. By the time they arrived, Xander had died. Stark claimed to have come across Xander in poor condition at the home before going to the animal hospital. According to the vet's report, Xander had died before the car ride.

A necropsy report found acute traumatic rib fractures and chronic rib fractures, a skull fracture, tracheal narrowing from strangulation, and fractured hyoid apparatus. The report read that "repeated non-accidental injury (intentional trauma) is of greatest concern," according to the affidavit. The cause of death was suspected strangulation or head trauma and the vet called the Longmont Police Department's animal control unit.

On Feb. 4, 2020, the girlfriend took her dog to the vet because she had blood in her urine, trouble defecating and her legs seemed painful. The vet found "a significant amount of recent bruising between her hind legs which appeared to be caused by trauma commonly seen in abuse," according to the affidavit. Because of the dog's severe pain, the vet gave her medication.

The vet, having been familiar with the incidents involving the two cats, called the police department's animal control unit again. The dog had been alone with Stark the previous day.

Due to the previous circumstances, police seized the dog, which was put under the care of the Longmont Humane Society for at least 30 days. The dog was found to have additional deep bruising consistent with acute trauma.

Police spoke with the girlfriend that evening and she said she suspected Stark was responsible for the animals' injuries. While she said she was going to kick him out, she changed her story to be more in line with Stark's explanation, according to the affidavit. Stark told police he believed somebody broke into their home and beat the dog. He also mentioned he "was mean to a cat" when he was 6 years old and "almost suffocated it to death with couch cushions," according to the affidavit.

While the case was pending, Stark did not show up for a January 2021 hearing. He was found to have fled the state, but was extradited back to Colorado after he was arrested in Indiana, according to The Daily Camera.

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"This case involved terrible conduct against animals," said District Attorney Michael Dougherty. "Given his prior conduct and the cruel acts involving his partner’s pets, the defendant clearly presented a risk to others. That’s why we have a prosecutor who specializes in cases involving animal cruelty. I appreciate all the hard work by Jenny McClintock and law enforcement in this aggravated cruelty to animals case. With this lengthy prison sentence, this defendant is being held responsible for his conduct.”