Charges held for court against Pottsville woman in dog's death in hot vehicle

·3 min read

Jul. 26—POTTSVILLE — Three of four charges against a Pottsville woman who police say left a dog in a hot vehicle for hours were held for court during a hearing Monday.

"It was a condition that baked the animal alive," Assistant District Attorney Andrew T. Bench said of the deceased dog, a pit bull named Tank, during a preliminary hearing in Magisterial District Judge James K. Reiley's courtroom.

Pottsville police said that Betty Jean Spiess, 31, of 304 W. Market St., left the dog in a parked Jeep on May 11, 2022.

Spiess entered a plea of not guilty before the approximate 30-minute hearing.

Isaac J. Souchak, a Pottsville police officer, and Jack Casella, a witness, testified in the case.

Souchak said that he received a call about 6:25 p.m. for a dog that was unresponsive and possibly dead on the sidewalk near the 200 block of North Second Street.

He met with Casella, who told him what happened and that he had taken a photo of the Jeep, which had been driven from the scene.

An affidavit of probable cause shows the vehicle is registered to Spiess.

Souchak, who said it was "abnormally hot that day," was not able to find Spiess.

She was subsequently arrested on June 6 and arraigned before Reiley the next day.

Charging documents indicated that Casella saw a woman, whom he identified as Spiess, drag a limp dog from the Jeep.

The temperature outside was about 80 degrees but would have been 123 degrees inside the vehicle in an hour, a meteorologist said in the affidavit.

Casella testified that he remembered the day "like it was yesterday."

He said that he was walking in the area of West Arch and North Second street and saw a dog near the back door of a Jeep lying on the asphalt while a woman and child were crying.

"She said she (had) forgot him in the car" since around 9 in the morning, Casella testified.

The witness said that he was angry, went and got the dog water and later called 911.

Defense attorney Charles Dutko Jr. asked Casella questions to test his memory. Casella, when asked, recalled what he was wearing that day and what he had eaten. He answered all questions posed except one.

"I'm not trying to make light of this," Dutko said.

He then asked that all charges be dismissed.

Bench said the dog was left in the heat for a prolonged period of time and that the charges should be upheld.

"I think this was a tragic, reckless mistake," he said.

Misdemeanor charges of cruelty to animals and two counts of neglect of animals-sustenance/water and shelter/protection were held for Schuylkill County Court, where the defendant can plead guilty or enter a not guilty plea and request a trial.

A third-degree felony charge of aggravated cruelty to animals-causing serious bodily injury or death was dismissed.

Contact the writer: amarchiano@republicanherald.com; 570-628-6023