One of the three teens, Nicholas Stogden, 13, who pleaded no contest on June 1 to animal cruelty has been sentenced to long term commitment.

Nicholas Stogden along with James Manzanares, 14, and Dasha Lombard, 15, have been in custody since May 6 for the alleged torture of a 9 month old puppy. The three found the puppy which had escaped from its owners and taped the dog’s muzzle with clear packing tape to suffocate her, stabbed her with a knife and screwdriver and then as if that weren’t enough, they proceeded to drop a 44 lb concrete block on her.

If two children who witnessed this hadn’t intervened, the poor dog’s fate would surely have been death. Luckily, with the help of a vet and donations by school children all over the Alamogordo area, the puppy, dubbed ‘Sandy’, did survive and was put up for adoption.

As for Stogden, this long term commitment could mean he could be in state custody for as long as two years, the maximum allowable under law. Judge James Waylon Counts told the boy he meted out the punishment, not due to public pressure, but out of concern that Stogden is headed for far greater trouble.

Todd Holmes, Stogden’s attorney, argued that his client had fallen in with a bad crowd and cited a psychological evaluation that pegged Stogden as something of a follower.

Holmes also argued that Stogden had cooperated with police, giving a voluntary statement and leading police to the location of the weapons used in the attack.

He alleged Lombard had bragged about the crime after the fact, and she and Manzanares harassed police and detention transport personnel while en route to a juvenile facility.

District Attorney Scot Key had a markedly different take, arguing that cruelty toward animals was a warning sign of violence toward people. He also cited Stogden’s eight referrals to the Juvenile Probation and Parole Office.

Key argued Stogden was equally culpable, stating he conspired with the other two defendants to kill the dog.

Two witnesses testified for the state Alamogordo Department of Public Safety Officer Roger Schoolcraft and one of Stogden’s teachers from Chaparral Middle School, Ben Henchar.

Schoolcraft said Stogden cooperated with police and appeared scared but somewhat guarded because he “knew he was in trouble.” Schoolcraft said it never became abundantly clear who stabbed the dog, but the knives did come from Stogden’s residence.

Holmes said during closing arguments that Stogden did not participate in the actual stabbing, an assertion Key disagreed with.

Henchar characterized Stodgen as “highly intelligent” but having taken a “nosedive” in school. Stogden was enrolled in the Chaparral Helping Adolescents Perform Successfully (CHAPS) program.

He said the program was geared toward students with behavioral or school performance problems, adding Stodgen did not perform well. Stogden later attended the ACES program, which Henchar said was for “extremely difficult” students.

Holmes said after the sentencing that if Stogden does well in state custody, he could be home as early as this Christmas. Holmes said he saw some sincerity in Stogden’s stated desire to stay out of further trouble.

Stogden’s alleged co-conspirators, Lombard and Manzanares, both have cases pending in District Court. (Alamogordo Daily News)

This is also not Stogdon’s first brush with the law. At the tender age of 13 he has already been charged several times with shoplifting; twice for battery on a household member; for running away; and for burglary.

We can only hope that this boy will take this chance to try to turn his life around. That as a ‘follower’ he chooses the right role model to follow for a change or this commitment will prove itself to be only one of many.

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