BELMONT COUNTY, Ohio — Pete Byers says he was preparing to take his dogs and his tools on a work trip to Pittsburgh when his two beloved companions, Bella and Emmy, disappeared.
"I turned around to lock that gate. I turned around my dogs were gone," Byers said. “And it’s the opening day of gun season so I’m like dying inside. I’m scared to death."
Byers says an hours-long search began. He enlisted the help of friends and neighbors and used four-wheelers, all the while calling for his pets.
Byers says hunters reported hearing shots and a dog yelp, but eventually a trail of tracks allegedly led to Michael Chedester's tree stand 800 yards away.
“I asked him, did you kill my dogs man, I want to know so I can bury them. Meanwhile he keeps eyeing this new brush pile. That’s new and fresh," Byers said. “Then he kind of looks down his nose at me and says ‘yeah, I killed your dogs. You want me to buy you two new ones? I'll buy you two new dogs."
“I asked him where are they and he looks at me like I’m confused and he points right there to my brush pile. And there's Emmy's paw, sticking out from the logs,” Byers said.
Byers notified authorities and a Belmont County sheriff deputy was called to interview Byers and the suspect, Michael Chedester.
“All that was taken, put in a very thorough report and forwarded to the prosecuting attorney," said Sheriff Dave Lucas.
Prosecutor Dan Fry says two felony charges of prohibitions concerning companion animals will be filed against 59-year-old Chedester, of St. Clairsville.
The offenses stem from the newly-imposed Goddard's Law, which only went into effect in Ohio on September 13 of this year. The law makes it a fifth degree felony to knowingly cause serious physical harm to a companion animal, such as pets or domestic creatures.
Meanwhile, the Byers family and friends are remembering five-year-old Emmy, a Weimaraner and six-year-old Bella, a Doberman.
“They were just really good friends, unconditional love all the time," Byers said.
Those two felony charges won't officially be filed until Wednesday morning. Chedester will then be summoned to court for a hearing.
If convicted, Chedester could be sentenced to the maximum of 12 months on each count or 24 months consecutively.