Court docs: Indianapolis man stuffed dog in oven, killing family pet

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INDIANAPOLIS (Sept. 4, 2014) – An Indianapolis man faces animal cruelty charges after investigators say he killed a dog by placing it in an oven.

According to court documents, the incident happened in May, when police were dispatched to a home in the 1500 block of Leonard Street.

Christine Kelley, who lives at the home with her boyfriend, children and two dogs, said a house guest, Joel Clark, killed her dog. Clark had been living at the home after being released from prison.

Kelley said she’d last seen her Miniature Pinscher, Zane, on Friday, May 16. When she woke up on Saturday, she said the dog was gone. She didn’t think anything of it immediately because the dog had a tendency to run off.

On Saturday afternoon, Kelley’s boyfriend, Richard Smith, was in the house with Clark. As the couple’s other dog walked by, Clark told him, “I can take care of that dog, too” and then admitted he’d killed the other dog.

According to court documents, Smith didn’t think much of it, believing Clark was “under the influence of alcohol” and didn’t know what he was saying. Smith said Clark had a history of alcoholism.

Later in the afternoon, Kelley went to throw something away in a trashcan. She found Zane “lying dead in the bottom.” Kelley and Smith left the home and returned later that night, ordering Clark to get his things and leave their home. Clark complied.

The couple put the dog in a cardboard box and buried him Sunday afternoon in their yard. About an hour later, Kelley found a square metal cookie sheet with a metal pizza pan on top. She saw red dog hair and “what appeared to be a toenail from a small dog.”

She suspected Clark had put Zane in the oven.

Police exhumed the dog’s body for examination. An animal control investigator found his whiskers were burned. He had marks on his legs that looked like cuts or burns. His paws and paw pads appeared to be burned as well, court documents said. Fur was also missing around his nose, and the investigator noted blood around his snout and mouth.

Kelley told police Clark was a close friend whom she’d known for 14 years. Smith said they’d never argued with Clark and considered him a “gentle giant.” They’d never seen him be mean to their pets before.

Kelley noted her other dog was not harmed but seemed fearful of Clark when they asked him to leave.

A necropsy determined that the cause of death was “thermal pulmonary injury leading to pulmonary edema”—a backup of fluid in the lungs caused by smoke inhalation.

Charges against Clark include torturing or mutilating an animal and killing a domestic animal. He also faces a felony escape charge for violating his home detention.

Neighbor Candy Click was shocked to hear about the allegations of animal cruelty just a few doors down from her home.

“That is cruel. I can’t get over that one. Especially down the street from us, because we have a lot of pet owners," says Click. “You don’t even want to know what I would do to them. It hurts. It makes me almost want to cry for the animal, because we’re animal lovers.”

“I can’t believe people mistreat animals like that," says John Moore, who also lives in the neighborhood. "I have two dogs myself and I love them more than anything in the world. If somebody can be abusive to an animal, they don’t deserve to be here.”

Jessica Lifford, executive director of the Indy Humane Animal Welfare Center, says this horrible case of animal cruelty should be a reminder for people throughout the community to keep an eye out for animal abuse or neglect.

“Animal cruelty can either come in the form of deliberate abuse, like in this situation, or lack of care for an animal. In either case, an animal, a victim, can suffer horribly.”


If someone notices what they think is animal cruelty, Lifford suggests talking to the pet's owner first.

"I would check to see what’s going on. Sometimes it can be easy to jump to conclusions before you know, but if there truly is an animal that is in serious danger, they should call the Mayor’s Action Center." That number is (317) 327-MAC.

For more information about programs that aim to help pet owners, visit

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