Beloit woman can't forget husband's attack on dog

Escrito por Nuria Querol i Viñas. Publicado en News in English.

Six months after watching her husband nearly beat their dog to death with a baseball bat, Larona Hertel is trying to decide whether they ever could reconcile.

Beloit woman can't forget husband's attack on dog

(Published Saturday, December 17, 2005)

By Shelly Birkelo
Gazette Staff

BELOIT-Six months after watching her husband nearly beat their dog to death with a baseball bat, Larona Hertel is trying to decide whether they ever could reconcile.

"It's confusing. I'm all mixed up," she said.

She doesn't love her husband, she said, but she doesn't hate him.

"I live in fear of him,'' she said.

Leo, 66, filed for divorce from Larona, 61, in May.

The divorce should have been final last month. It wasn't.

"I let the lawyer go 'cause he wanted more money,'' Larona said.

Larona Hertel poses with her beloved dog, Princess, which Hertel's husband, Leo, nearly beat to death with a baseball bat six months ago.
Al Hoch/Gazette Staff

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On June 14, Larona watched as Leo bludgeoned their dog, Princess, with a baseball bat. The dog continues to heal from near-fatal wounds.

Larona said it was the latest episode in an eight-year history of violence by her husband of 10 years.

After more than five months in jail and two mental evaluations, Leo was convicted of animal abuse and domestic battery. A Rock County judge sentenced him Nov. 28 to three years probation and 45 hours of community service.

Larona said her husband is living in Janesville with his minister, who wants them to reconcile.

But Larona can't forget the beating.

The first hit knocked down the 50-pound, 5-year-old German shepherd mix. The second blow knocked the dog's eye out of its right socket. For 10 minutes, Leo kept hitting the dog as Larona watched from their neighbor's kitchen window.

"Her whole skull was fractured,'' Larona said.

The dog's nose was shattered. Her skin held everything together. Princess' bottom jaw was broken and her neck fractured.

"The dog couldn't even whimper,'' Larona said.

Princess bled internally for five days.

At sentencing Nov. 28, the judge also ordered that Leo not own a pet for three years.

Leo, who had no criminal history before the convictions, also must participate in treatment and counseling, and he must take medications as part of his probation.

Larona was granted a temporary restraining order after her husband's June arrest.

Leo had planned to kill Princess, Larona believes.

While Larona was at work the morning of June 14, Leo tied Princess to a telephone post across the street from their home on Weirick Avenue.

When Larona later untied Princess, Leo yelled that the dog needed to stay tied up because police had told him Princess had rabies and that "raby control" was coming to pick up the dog.

Even though Larona showed Leo paperwork that the dog had been vaccinated, he grabbed the dog and tied her to the post again.

When Larona later asked if she could feed Princess, Leo responded, "No. I'm going to starve her."

That's when he grabbed a baseball bat and started chasing Larona.

"I was running and far enough ahead of him when something mentally clicked. He turned and walked toward the dog," Larona said.

Larona pleaded with him to not hurt the dog, but Leo began chasing her again. She stayed out of his reach and asked again what he was going to do with the baseball bat.

Her voice, she believes, made him stop and go back to the dog.

"This time he didn't stop,'' said Larona.

Leo mercilessly pounded the dog.

Larona prayed for God to take care of the animal as she ran to the neighbors' and called police.

Rock County Humane Society staff took Princess to a Janesville veterinary hospital after the attack.

Larona was told that Princess probably wouldn't live through the night. But she did. Three days later, an emotional, weeping Larona took Princess home.

"I slept on the couch. Princess slept on the floor next to me,'' Larona said.

She hand-fed the dog until she could eat from a saucer.

"Day by day, she got better,'' Larona said.

Princess' jaw still is separated, but she can chew. She's partially blind in the right eye.

"Everything," Larona said, "is still healing."

But Larona isn't not sure if her relationship with Leo will ever heal.

"I'd pack up and leave, but I can't," she said. "I don't have enough money.

"But if I took him back, I'd lose my dog and cat, and my pets mean more to me."
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