Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Holly Fesperman LeeSalisbury PostA Kannapolis man accused of severely beating his 4-month-old puppy, which has become known as Merry, has been found not guilty.
The verdict has left an animal rights activist and Kannapolis Police flabbergasted.
According to the Cabarrus County Clerk of Court’s Office, Sylvester Conyers, 22, of 723 Rainplace Court, was found not guilty of animal cruelty on Thursday. Cabarrus District Court Judge Martin McGee made the ruling.
A clerk’s office employee who declined to identify herself said the judge didn’t give an explanation for the ruling.
Conyers reportedly said in court that the dog got hit by a car.
Conyers was charged with animal cruelty on Dec. 10 after Kannapolis Police officers found the puppy with two broken legs and a broken pelvis at his home. Police also found injuries on the puppy’s neck that resembled burn marks.
A neighbor had called police and reported that Conyers had been beating the puppy because she used the bathroom on the floor, according to Kannapolis Police.
“It was a bad thing to happen,” said Kannapolis Police Chief Woody Chavis late Friday.
He had checked with officers to determine what happened in court. Chavis said Conyers said the dog was hit by a vehicle. “We didn’t have any witnesses,” Chavis said.
“The police and the public showed what they are made of by taking care of the dog,” said Chavis, referring to the outpouring of contributions to pay for the medical bills. Chavis added that the only saving grace is that Con-yers won’t get the dog back.
Conyers signed over his ownership rights.
“I’m bewildered and befuddled,” said Patsy Beeker, founder and president of Cabarrus CARES (Coalition for Animal Rescue Efforts and Services) .
Beeker, who is also chairman of the county task force on animal welfare, was in court Thursday with several other members of the organization to monitor the case. Two technicians from the clinic treating Merry were among the group.
Beeker said she talked with Assistant District Attorney Andrew Bowman during a morning break. She said that Bowman told her that in light of the Michael Vick case, animal cruelty is being prosecuted more seriously. And she said Bowman told her the case would most likely be continued.
Beeker said it was difficult for her and her group to hear clearly in the courtroom, but they understood the case was continued before the lunch break. They asked a probation officer who was in court, and the officer said the case was continued. The officer gave them a phone number to call to get the new court date.
Believing the case would not be called, they went home. Beeker also called other animal supporters who had planned to be in court Thursday afternoon and told them there was no need to be in court.
She found out Friday morning from other law enforcement offers that the case had been called and Conyers found not guilty.
Beeker said she called the Cabarrus District Attorney’s office but never got a return call. “If you are not willing to prosecute the cases, what good does it do for police officers to bring animal cruelty charges?” Beeker asked.
She said the district attorney’s office didn’t subpoena any of the staff at the clinic who could have testified about the cigarette burns and the lack of abrasions that would be consistent with a dog being hit by a car.
Beeker made clear she feels the district attorney’s office put a low priority on the case.
“He (Bowman) had a month to prepare the case. … If this was his best effort, I would hate to see him on a bad day,” Beeker said.
After finding out about the verdict, Beeker sent e-mails to many animal supporters, calling on them to write to Judge McGee and District Attorney Roxann Vaneekhoven, Assistant District Attorney Bowman and Chief District Court Judge William Hamby. The address is P.O. Box 70, Concord, NC 28026.
A staffer at the Cabarrus District Attorney’s Office told the Post on Friday that no one would be available to respond to questions about the case until Monday.
Merry remains at Cabarrus Emergency Veterinary Clinic. Workers there named the small black and white puppy shortly after she arrived during the bustle of Christmas. A public appeal by the clinic drew more than $3,000 in donations to pay for medical care.
Kim Lance, a staffer at the clinic said Friday that Merry was still doing well but hasn’t had surgery yet.
Conyers is in the Cabarrus County jail on other charges filed on Dec. 9, including assault on a female, injury to real property, possession of marijuana and second degree trespass.