Investigation into animal abuse case ends with arrest

| June 26, 2020 9:07 AM

The Troy man publicly accused of abusing a dog and intimidating neighbors in recent weeks faces charges of aggravated animal cruelty and two counts of tampering with a witness.

Domingo J. Palafox, 29, made an initial appearance in Lincoln County Justice Court on June 23. Authorities set his bond at $250,000.

The investigation into the abuse of Percy, a young Alaskan malamute, garnered widespread local interest after photos of his condition and, later, his recovery were posted to social media. After receiving medical care in Montana, Percy found a new home in Canada with help from Pet Connection Rescue and Sanctuary, which brought public attention to the abuse case.

Percy’s supporters raised money for a reward for information leading to the arrest of his abuser and took to the streets earlier this month to boost awareness of the case. They marched through Troy, where he was found.

Several of those supporters also named Palafox as the likely culprit in social media posts, but bemoaned the lack of evidence, even as the reward rose above $3,500. At the time, Troy Police Chief Katie Davis would only say that the case remained an active investigation.

Davis ultimately arrested Palafox on June 22, according to the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office incident log.

Court documents offered more details about the lengthy investigation. In an affidavit, Davis recounted Percy’s condition upon his March 9 discovery. Underweight, the malamute underwent ear amputations owing to decay. He spent a week in the care of a veterinarian.

Juli Hopfer of Pet Connection Rescue and Sanctuary said that they initially thought the dog was suffering from frostbite, but it later became apparent that someone had doused the animal with an igniter and lit it afire.

Early on, Davis received information pointing to Palafox and his wife, court documents said. The couple bought the dog from a breeder in the Yaak, she wrote.

On March 26, Davis learned of the possible existence of a video of Palafox lighting the animal on fire. The person who had possession of the film was terrified of Palafox, Davis wrote, and refused to speak with law enforcement.

A search of Palafox’s wife’s Facebook account yielded photos of two puppies, according to Davis. One had markings matching that of Percy, she wrote.

When Davis attempted to interview Palafox, he refused unless his attorney was present, court documents said. Later, he told Davis his attorney had advised him that it was hearsay.

On June 11, just days after marchers paraded through the streets of Troy, advertising the reward and tacking up wanted posters, Palafox allegedly was involved in an argument with another man at a local gas station, court documents said.

The man told Davis that Palafox allegedly threatened his brother and warned against him discussing evidence of the abuse. The two men confirmed the existence of the video, court documents said.

In a follow up interview, the brothers said the video paid homage to a 1997 film featuring animal cruelty scenes, according to documents. The younger of the two brothers told Davis that the video showed the dog tied up.

He said Palafox used about 1.5 gallons of gasoline on the dog and then lit it on fire, according to court documents. The fire burnt through the rope, though, and the dog ran off, he told authorities. Palafox’s face was not captured in the film, the man said, but his arm tattoos were visible.

Palafox believed the dog dead, the man told Davis, according to court documents.

The two men told investigators they decided to step forward not because of the reward, but because Palafox had come to their home and threatened them with harm, court documents said. Were they to talk about the video, he threatened to take out a $10,000 bounty “to have them taken care of,” court documents said.

Aggressive animal abuse carries with it the maximum penalty of two years in state prison and a fine of $2,500. The tampering with witness charges can be punished by up to 10 years behind bars and fines of up to $50,000.

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Marchers paraded through Troy earlier this month to raise awareness about the anmal abuse case. (File Photo)