NJ man faces five years in prison for killing stolen puppies

A New Jersey man has pleaded guilty to animal cruelty charges after the deaths of four stolen German Shepherd puppies in his care, prosecutors said.

Daniel McDonald, 26, of Freehold, pleaded guilty Thursday to third-degree animal cruelty after the remains of two puppies were found in a fire pit and the remains of two other puppies were found buried on a property in Howell, Monmouth County prosecutors said.

The four German Shepard pups were stolen from a Somerset County farm days earlier, where McDonald had been staying.

Investigators later learned that the animals were also ill at the time of being taken. A necropsy conducted on the two buried animals revealed they had parasites and were severely malnourished with “no indications of recent nutritional ingestion,” Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni said.

As part of his plea deal, McDonald admitted not getting proper care for the animals, leading to their untimely deaths. He also pleaded guilty to receiving stolen property after admitting he was in possession of a John Deere front-end loader that was reported stolen in Monroe, prosecutors said.

McDonald faces five years in state prison when he’s sentenced on Jan. 8. The sentence will run concurrently with his unspecified, pending charges in Middlesex and Bergen counties. He will also have to agree to never own or live with animals again, Gramiccioni said.

A co-defendant in the case, Tricia Jaccoma, 24, was arrested in September after eluding authorities for nearly three months. Jaccoma was charged with McDonald in June after the dogs were found dead at the Howell residence where they were temporarily living. The status of her case was immediately unclear early Friday.

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