Bartlett man acquitted of fatal dog abuse in Woodridge
Citing uncertain medical testimony, a DuPage Circuit judge Monday acquitted a Bartlett man of killing his girlfriend's beloved dog.
Mario E. Spizzirri faced up to three years in prison if convicted of felony aggravated animal cruelty. The 31-year-old Bartlett man maintained his innocence during a two-day trial earlier this month.
He was alone with 9-year-old Scooby for less than an hour Feb. 21, 2008, in the couple's apartment on the 6500 block of Double Eagle Drive in Woodridge when he called his girlfriend to report the dog's injuries.
Spizzirri rushed the 10-pound Shih Tzu-Maltese to the Arboretum View in Downers Grove, where Scooby was euthanized. The veterinarian called police to report suspected abuse.
Authorities sent the dog's remains for a necropsy to the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine in Urbana. Experts found Scooby, who had a fractured skull, died due to blunt-force trauma.
During the trial, two veterinarians said they could not pinpoint the exact cause or time the blunt force trauma was inflicted, but they agreed the injuries were so severe, the dog would have exhibited symptoms quickly.
"The issue isn't whether I think the defendant caused these injuries," Circuit Judge Blanche Hill Fawell said Monday. "The issue is whether the state proved the charges beyond a reasonable doubt. In this case, I find there are just too many unanswered questions as to how these unusual injuries occurred."
The owner, Jennifer Linhart, testified Scooby appeared healthy when she gave him two doggy treats, put him in his crate with a blanket and left the apartment to go to work. Less than an hour later, she said, Spizzirri called to report Scooby's injuries.
Linhart also said Scooby appeared afraid of Spizzirri, whom she began living with six months earlier.
Spizzirri did not testify during the trial. His attorney, Sam Amirante, said prosecutors lacked "a scintilla of evidence" that proved Spizzirri harmed the pooch. Amirante suggested the injuries may have been inflicted accidentally by Linhart or even Scooby, who had a history of anxiety and behavioral issues - a defense prosecutors Michael Fisher and Joseph Ruggiero argued belied common sense.
Spizzirri does not have a violent history. The couple broke up shortly after Scooby's death.