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Man charged with animal cruelty in pit bull's death

Published: Monday, March 31, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT
Joseph R. Nelson

ROCK FALLS – A 37-year-old Rock Falls man was in Whiteside County Jail Sunday afternoon, charged with a felony for apparently leaving a caged pit bull to starve to death in the basement of a home he once rented, Whiteside County Sheriff Kelly Wilhelmi said.

Joseph R. Nelson is being held on $50,000 bond, charged with aggravated cruelty to an animal, which carries 1 to 3 years in prison. He has an April 3 court hearing.

Deputies arrested Nelson at 1:45 p.m. Friday, after an investigation into the dog’s death that began Tuesday, the sheriff’s office said in a news release sent Saturday morning.

“We’ve got a good, solid case,” Wilhelmi said Saturday.

A necropsy is scheduled today; it is hoped to reveal, among other things, time and exact cause of death, Wilhelmi said.

The dog appears to be an adult, but the carcass weighed only 25 pounds, he said. It was found in the basement by a person hired to clean out the rental property, which is in the 1000 block of Lincoln Street. The person carried the cage out to the yard, the sheriff said.

Nelson has several felony convictions on his record in Whiteside County, for two counts of burglary and for writing bad checks in two 1997 cases, and for driving on a revoked license and obstructing justice by destroying evidence in a 2009 case. He also has a felony bad check conviction in Lee County stemming from a 1998 case.

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